Cancer is one of India’s most prevalent diseases, with around 1500000 new cases diagnosed every year. Of these, women are at a higher risk of developing cancer – with 1 in 29 women being diagnosed before the age of 75. The risk of cancer increases with age, but the warning signs of cancers can be seemingly silent, especially for women. That’s why it’s important to know what to look for since early diagnosis is a crucial part of successfully treating the disease.
To help you recognise the early warning signs of cancer, Dr Vikarm Sahane, Lead – Public Health, Tata Cancer Care Foundation- an initiative of Tata Trusts, shares and lists the four most common cancers affecting women in India, and their common symptoms.
1. Breast Cancer
In 2022, breast cancer had the highest rate of occurrence observed among Indian women, with over 1,78,000 cases being diagnosed in that year alone. Recent studies also point towards the disease affecting younger women in India. Breast cancer can be caused due to both – genetic and lifestyle factors. A family history of breast cancer and the inheritance of certain Breast Cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and Breast Cancer gene 2 (BRCA2) can increase the risk of developing cancer. Furthermore, factors such as obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption can also increase the risk.
Some of the common symptoms of breast cancer:
- Lump in the breast
- Blood-stained discharge from the nipple
- Change in shape and size of breast
2. Cervical Cancer
There has been a rise in cervical cancer rates in recent years, with India recording 21% of the global cases diagnosed in 2022. Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects it to the vagina and can be caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. HPV Vaccination and regular screening are considered to be effective in early diagnosis and prevention of cervical cancer.
Some of the common symptoms of cervical cancer:
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after menopause
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
3. Oral Cancer
Oral cancer can manifest in several forms, appearing as ulcers in the mouth or throat. It can affect the throat, tonsils, lymph nodes, and salivary glands, as well as tissue surrounding the oral cavity and tongue. Tobacco and beetle nut consumption in any form increases the risk of oral cancer.
Some of the common symptoms of oral cancer:
- Any ulcers in the mouth that have not healed in two weeks
- Difficulty in opening the mouth
- Any white or red patch in the mouth that has not healed in two weeks
- Any change in the tone of your voice
4. Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer usually affects middle-aged women, with a majority of cases being recorded between 35 and 65 years of age. The risk of ovarian cancer is also hereditary, with family history contributing to greater chances of developing the disease. It is asymptomatic in the initial stages, making it essential to have regular tests to detect the cancer at the earliest.
Some of the common symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Lower-abdominal swelling
- Drastic weight loss
- Persistent lower abdomen pain and backache