Friday, 8 March 2013

Happy Women’s Day!!

I know lots and lots of fabulous women and I think it’s great that there is a day dedicated to celebrating how amazing womankind is!

I’m going to use this day to remind everyone of a few key facts regarding female cancers. I have included breast cancer but this is a cancer that can affect men and women. Take a look at the facts below and remember to visit your GP if you have noticed any changes in your body or are suffering from any of the symptoms.

Cancer of the Breast
The Breast:
Breasts are made up of fat, gland tissue and connective tissue which is divided into lobes. A network of ducts spread from these lobes towards the nipple. Breasts are not usually the exact same size as each other and they can also vary in size and shape throughout your monthly cycle. They also change with age – younger women have a lot more glandular tissue so their breasts are usually more dense. After the menopause this tissue is gradually replaced by fat, which is less dense.

Breast Cancer Symptoms:
As with all cancers; the earlier breast cancer is found, the easier it is to treat. This means ladies need to be aware of what is normal for their breasts. You need to regularly have a good old feel of your breasts so you become used to how they look and feel. That way it will be easy for you to spot any changes that may actually be cancer symptoms. Do not panic as about 90% of breast lumps are not cancerous but if you do think something is not right, it is vital that you visit your GP ASAP.

The most common symptoms of breast cancer is a lump or some thickened tissue in their breast. There are also other symptoms to watch out for:
*A change to the size or shape of one or both breasts
*Nipple discharge
*A lump in your armpit
*Dimpling on the skin of your breasts
*A rash on or around your nipples
*A change in how your nipple looks (for example it can become sunken or invert into your breast)
*A pain in your breast or armpit that is not period related

It is hugely important to know what is normal for your breasts so I fully encourage all ladies to regularly feel their breasts. Just after a shower is probably the best time. Maybe you can get your partner to feel to so you can have a second opinion if you feel something has changed.


Cancer of the Cervix
The Cervix:
The cervix is basically the neck of the womb (uterus). It is the opening to the womb from the vagina. The cervix is a very strong muscle which is usually tightly shut but it does open during labour so the baby can come out. The outer surface of the cervix has a layer of cells which are almost skin-like. When these cells become cancerous it is known as squamous cell cervical cancer. There are glandular cells lining the inside of the cervix producing mucus. Cancer of these cells is called adenocarcinoma of the cervix. There is an area of the cervix known as the transformation zone. This is around the opening of the cervix leading onto a narrow passageway that runs into the womb. This zone is where cells are most likely to become cancerous.

Risks and Causes of Cervical Cancer:
* Human Pampilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common and biggest cause of cervical cancer. HPV is passed on from person to person via sexual contact. There are many different types of HPV and not all of them cause cervical cancer. One type causes genital warts but not cervical cancer. However other types are considered high risk. These types can lead to cells in the cervix changing and becoming cancerous. Most women who have HPV and develop cervical cancer will have had other infections caused by HPV in the past. However, not every woman with HPV will develop cervical cancer.
* Smoking can lead to cervical cancer; women who smoke are more likely to develop this type of cancer then women that do not smoke.
* Taking the pill can also increase your risk but the reason for this is not yet known
* Women that have bore a large number of children also have a slightly higher risk as are women with a weakened immune system.

Smear Tests:
It is hugely important to have cervical screening as preventing cervical cancer from developing is vital. Cervical cancer is actually one of the only cancers that is preventable because if pre cancerous cells are detected through screening then they can be treated before they have a chance to become cancerous.
Women between the ages of twenty five and sixty are encouraged to have smear tests every three to five years to detect any changing cells in their cervix. During a smear test, a doctor or nurse will insert a speculum into your vagina and scrape anyway a sample of cells from your cervix. These cells are then placed into a small pot of liquid and send to be analysed. You will then be contacted with your results and any abnormal smears will require further investigation.

You don’t have to be over the age of twenty five to develop cervical cancer; some younger women do develop it as well. However, in the UK, smear tests are not encouraged until twenty five because your cervix is still developing in your teens and early twenties. This means the likelihood of you getting an abnormal result is more common but usually nothing to worry about. After Jade Goody’s horrifically young death, a campaign was launched to lower the smear test age limit but medical professionals do not agree with this. If you are under twenty five and are concerned about your cervical cancer risk – please do speak to your GP and get some advice. A private gynaecologist may allow you to have a smear test but it would depend on your individual circumstances.


Before I start listing the symptoms, please note that pre cancerous cells do not produce symptoms. This means having a smear test is hugely important – you can catch the cancer before it even develops. It is also important to know that the following symptoms do not instantly mean you have cervical cancer but it is important to go to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
* Bleeding between periods
* Bleeding during or after sex
* Bleeding at any time after the menopause
* Discomfort or pain during sex

Cancer of the Ovaries
The Ovaries:
The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system along with the vagina, uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes. You have two ovaries, one of the left and one on the right. Each month, a fertile woman will produce an egg in each ovary. The ovaries are also responsible for producing the female sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, throughout a woman’s childbearing years. These hormones control your menstrual cycle and as you approach menopause, the amount of hormone produced lessens and your periods eventually stop completely.

Ovarian Cysts:
A cyst is a sack filled with fluid. Fertile woman develop cysts each month as their eggs are developed. They are not usually cancerous or anything to worry about. However, sometimes they appear larger than normal or are there for longer than normal and at this point they should be investigated. Any post menopausal woman developing cysts should also be investigated. If your cysts are painful or cause you to develop symptoms then you should see your doctor ASAP.

Ovarian Cancer:
At the moment, ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in females. Epithelial ovarian cancer makes up over 90% of ovarian cancer cases. Epithelial simply means surface layer. So the cancer is in the surface layer of the ovary.

Currently, not much is known about the causes of this type of cancer. As you all will know, your risk of developing any cancer rising with age and the same applies for ovarian. Family history is an important factor as statistics show about 1 in every 10 cases of ovarian cancer are caused by an inherited faulty gene. It is thought that Georgie’s Li Fraumeni Syndrome was inherited from his mother. We don’t know this for certain but if it is correct then it is safe to assume her cancer was caused by the same syndrome. Other possible risks for ovarian cancer include infertility, the use of HRT treatments, being tall or overweight, endometriosis and the use of talcum powder. Please don’t be panicked by this list; it doesn’t mean everybody gets ovarian cancer.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:
As previously mentioned, ovarian cancer symptoms are very hard to find, especially at the early stages. Many women in the early stages of ovarian cancer don’t report any symptoms at all. Symptoms can become apparent when the cancer has spread from the ovary. Sufferers of advanced ovarian cancer will display more symptoms. I will list some symptoms to look out for:
Early Symptoms – pain in lower abdomen or side and a bloated feeling in the abdomen.
Symptoms when The Cancer has Spread – abdominal pain, back pain, passing more urine than normal, constipation, pain during sex, swollen abdomen, irregular periods and bleeding after the menopause
Advanced Symptoms - loss of appetite, feeling sick, being sick, constipation, tiredness, shortness of breath, a noticeable swelling in abdomen

As I mention all the time, the key to surviving cancer is diagnosing it as early as possible so if you suspect anything at all, or are worried about symptoms, please make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you possibly can. Particular symptoms require urgent attention from your doctor:
*Tummy pain
*Swelling or bloating of the abdomen
*Back pain
*Urinary symptoms

If your doctor is concerned, they will do a full pelvic ultrasound including an internal examination, which can be uncomfortable. If there is a lump or cause for concern then they will arrange for you to have an ultrasound scan and it will go from there.

Cancer of the Endometrium or Womb (Uterine Cancer)
The Womb:
The womb is part of the female reproductive system. It is a muscular bag shaped like a pear and its job is to protect a baby as it grows during pregnancy. It is also known as the uterus.

Please note that although the cervix forms part of the womb – womb cancer and cervical cancer are two different things.

Cancer of the Womb:
Womb cancer is the fourth most common cancer for women in the UK, especially those that are between the ages of sixty and seventy nine. Womb cancer has several different names: womb cancer, uterine cancer or endometrial cancer. This is because the womb is also known as the uterus and because the lining of the womb is called the endometrium. Cancer of the endometrium is the most common type of womb cancer.

Risk Factors for Womb Cancer:
Exact causes for womb cancer are not yet known. However, something’s do increase your risk of developing this kind of cancer:
* Overweight or obese women are more likely to develop womb cancer then women of a “normal” weight
* Your menstrual history can also increase your risk – for example if your menarche (first period) arrived at an early age or you had a late menopause.

However, it’s not all bad news... research shows having a baby will lower your risk of womb cancer and having more than one child will decrease your risk even more.

Symptoms of Womb Cancer:
About nine out of ten womb cancer cases are diagnosed because the woman is suffering from post menopausal or irregular vaginal bleeding. Womb cancer symptoms to look out for include:
* Vaginal bleeding after the menopause
* Unusually heavy bleeding
* Bleeding between periods
* Pink and watery vaginal discharge
* Dark and foul smelling vaginal discharge

Less common symptoms include:
Abdominal pain or discomfort
Painful sex
An enlarged or swollen womb (your doctor will be the one to find this symptom)

A Poem about Women:
The beauty of a woman
Is not in the clothes she wears,
The figure that she carries,
Or the way she combs her hair.
The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes,
Because that is the doorway to her heart,
The place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole
But true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.
It is the caring that she lovingly gives,
The passion that she shows,
And the beauty of a woman
With passing years only grows!


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