WOMEN’ S HEALTH: A LITTLE AWARENESS GOES A LONG WAY

In our daily hectic  schedule , how closely do we observe our bodies or bodily functions?  On world cancer day, lets take sometime to  learnabout the common cancers affecting women and subtle signs our body shows that may help detect it early.

Cancer is abnormal malignant growth of normal body tissues. When detected early, cancer can be surgically removed and/or treated with chemotherapy /radiotherapythereby improving survival and longevity of the patient. Early detection of cancer is therefore most important .Subjecting normal individuals to undergotests for early detection is called as screening. The two most commonest cancers  for which screening tests are available are breast and cervical cancer.For breast, every woman between the age 20-40 years of age should do an easy breast self-examination routinely at home.She should look for any lump or swelling in the breast, overlying skin abnormality , nipple retraction ,nipple ulceration and bloody  nipple discharge.The preliminary examination  for a  breast lump is an FNAC (fine needle aspiration cytology) where a thin needle is inserted in the swelling and material aspirated is examined.

Is there a way to detect cancerous change even before thedetection of lump?Yes, bymammography. Mammography is the radiological investigation which uses low dose x- ray system to look inside the breast. It picks up subtle cancerous changes.It should be done 2 yearly after 50 years of age. However, womenat high risk  due to family history of breast or ovarian cancer should undergo yearly mammograms starting at 35-40 yrs of age.Cervical cancer is also widely screened by a paps test. In papstest, gynaecological examination is done followed by insertion of brush into the cervix.The brush is rotated 3 to 4 times to collect cells. This brush is then smeared on a glass slide(k/a conventional pap smear) or kept in liquid chemical(k/a liquid based cytology- LBC).LBC is new improved technique for paps. Women should get paps done every 3 years after 21years upto 65years of age. But in case of high risk, screening has to be done more frequently.

For a person and her family dealing with cancer can be a daunting task but enlightened with knowledge and awareness regarding screening and early diagnosis would result in better prognosis and increased longevity.