Any cancer that occurs in the female reproductive organ can be termed as a gynaecological cancer.
Affecting the uterus, ovaries, cervix, vulva and vagina, most gynaecological cancers do not show any symptoms during the early stages.
According to the Singapore Cancer Registry, gynaecological cancer ranks among the top 10 cancers that affect women in Singapore, with the most common being uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer.
According to Dr See Hui Ti, Senior Consultant of Medical Oncology at the Parkway Cancer Centre, cervical cancer is the most preventable. It can be completely treated through surgery in the pre-cancerous stage. In later stages, chemotherapy or radiation are often the options.
Dr See adds that for certain types of cervical cancer, immunotherapy, where the body's own white cells are used to fight cancer is now an option as well.
Vaccinations against HPV (human papilloma virus) will reduce the chance of genital infections that can later lead to cervical cancer. Other preventive steps include regular PAP smears or HPV testing.
There are no symptoms for cervical cancer.
However, women who suffer abdominal pain or discomfort, constipation, or unusual bleeding such as after sex or in between a menstrual period, should visit a doctor.
Unusual bleeding, including postmenopausal bleeding could also be a signal for uterine cancer, another common gynaecological cancer among Singapore women.
Surgery, says Dr See, is usually the main option in dealing with uterine cancer, with the removal of the offending organ. At later stages, or for a more aggressive cancer, the expert option would be chemotherapy and radiation.
The leading cause of death among gynaecological cancers, remains ovarian cancer. It is known as the “Silent Killer” because it shows no symptoms in the early stages. Often, by the time it is discovered, the cancer is usually at stage 3 or 4.
However, as Dr See points out, women in Singapore and in Asia, are generally slimmer, making lower abdominal bloating more obvious when it occurs. This means more women get diagnosed with ovarian cancer at stage 1 and 2.
Apart from lower abdominal bloating and discomfort, the other warning signs are constipation and generally poor appetite.
As women age, they become more prone to cancer. Early detection, advises Dr See, is therefore crucial. “Seek help as early as possible. Because the earlier we find it, the better it is the cure rate” she states.
In partnership with Parkway Cancer Centre
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