Cancer is one of the most prevalent diseases in India, with about 1500000 new cases diagnosed every year. Among these, women are at higher risk of developing cancer – 1 in 29 women are diagnosed before the age of 75. Cancer risk increases with age, but cancer warning signs can be seemingly silent, especially for women. That’s why it’s important to know what to look for because early diagnosis is an important part of successfully treating the disease.
To help you recognize the early warning signs of cancer, Dr Vikarm Sahane, Lead – Public Health, Tata Cancer Care Foundation, shares and lists four common cancers affecting women in India and their common symptoms.
1. Breast cancer
In 2022, the highest rate of breast cancer was observed among Indian women, with over 1,78,000 cases diagnosed in that year alone. Recent studies also point to the disease affecting young women in India Both genetic and lifestyle factors can cause breast cancer. A family history of breast cancer and the inheritance of certain breast cancer genes 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer genes 2 (BRCA2) can increase the risk of developing cancer. Additionally, factors such as obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption can also increase the risk.
Some common symptoms of breast cancer are:
- lump in breast
- Blood-stained discharge from the nipple
- Changes in breast size and shape
2. Cervical cancer
Cervical cancer rates have increased in recent years, with India recording 21% of the global cases diagnosed in 2022. Cervical cancer occurs in cells of the cervix – the lower part of the uterus that connects it to the vagina – and can be caused by certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. HPV vaccination and regular screening are considered effective in early detection and prevention of cervical cancer.
Some common symptoms of cervical cancer are:
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after menopause
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
3. Oral cancer
Oral cancer can manifest in many forms, appearing as ulcers in the mouth or throat. It can affect the throat, tonsils, lymph nodes and salivary glands, as well as the tissues surrounding the oral cavity and tongue. Tobacco and betel nut consumption in any form increases the risk of oral cancer.
Some common symptoms of oral cancer are:
- Any mouth ulcers that have not healed in two weeks
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- White or red spots on the face that have not healed in two weeks
- Any changes in your voice
4. Ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer usually affects middle-aged women, with most cases recorded between 35 and 65 years of age. Ovarian cancer risk is also hereditary, with a family history making the disease more likely. It is asymptomatic in its early stages, which makes regular check-ups essential to detect cancer.
Some common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
- Abdominal bloating
- Drastic weight loss
- Persistent abdominal pain and back pain