Despite recent advancements in preventive and proactive treatment, cancer remains an intimidating threat. This disease is still not fully understood and treatment can drag on for months or even years. It’s absolutely crucial that people know what symptoms to watch for and when to see a doctor while treatment is still possible.

Cancer is an all-too-common disease that can become a threat to anyone’s health. Here are the most common types of cancer women should be aware of. #MainStreetMedical #MainStreetMedicalClinic Click To Tweet

Cancer in Women

While cancer can affect either sex, there are certain types that are more commonly seen in women or, in some cases, exclusive to women. But regardless of the exact kind, cancer is a potentially deadly disease unless recognized and treated early. Here are the types of cancer women should especially be on the lookout for:

  1. Breast cancer
  2. Uterine cancer
  3. Ovarian cancer
  4. GTD
  5. PPC
  6. Cervical cancer
  7. Vaginal cancer
  8. Vulvar cancer

1) Breast Cancer

While not exclusive to women, breast cancer affects a significant percentage of American women. According to BreastCancer.org, approximately 12% of American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during their lifetimes. Considering the unfortunate commonality of this disease, it’s crucial for women to learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

Most women know about feeling their breasts for lumps, which could be a sign of a developing tumor. But there’s a bit more to it than just feeling a lump–after all, an organ primarily composed of fat will always feel somewhat lumpy. Breast tumors can feel soft and moveable or, on the more malignant side, firm and immobile. The firmer a lump is, the more likely it is to be a tumor. Since even a benign breast tumor can cause tissue damage with time, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor quickly if you suspect a tumor is developing.

Pro Tip: Breast cancer lumps can sometimes form in the armpits and are just as much a cause for concern as lumps in the breast. If you suspect a tumor is developing, call your doctor.

2) Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer develops in the lining of the uterus. Because uterine cancer involves the reproductive organs, it can lead to infertility if not treated quickly. This type of cancer is often accompanied by such symptoms as:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Constant urgency to use the bathroom

Cancer that affects a woman’s reproductive system can significantly interfere with hormones in the body, leading to (or exacerbating) imbalances and potentially making things worse. If you suspect or have been diagnosed with cancer in any of your reproductive organs, talk to your doctor about hormone therapy.

3) Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is often accompanied by these symptoms:

  • Feelings of fullness or struggling to eat
  • Bloating
  • Pelvic pain
  • Urgent or frequent need to urinate

Even early stages of ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms, so if you notice these sudden changes, don’t delay!

If you suspect you have ovarian cancer, schedule a pelvic exam with a gynecologist. If your exam comes back normal, your doctor will schedule a follow-up appointment in a few weeks to see if your symptoms have changed at all. If not, more in-depth examinations and treatment will progress.

4) GTD

GTD is a mercifully uncommon and usually benign form of growth, but one that shouldn’t be ignored. Similar to a phantom pregnancy, GTD occurs when a placenta forms in the womb without a fetus or with a significantly abnormal fetus. In either case, the placenta is filled with cysts and giving off hormones that make the patient appear to be pregnant. While some symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding, may be present, the only sure method of diagnosis is via ultrasound.

With proper care and recovery time, the majority of women who have experienced GTD will be able to have normal pregnancies later on. The most important thing is to simply get the treatment you need as soon as possible.

5) PPC

Primary peritoneal cancer (PPC) is a relatively rare form of cancer that affects mostly (though not exclusively) women. This cancer occurs from malignant cell growth in the lining of different abdominal organs, and though it’s often in or around the ovaries, even women who have had their ovaries removed are susceptible.

The symptoms are virtually identical to symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Bloating
  • Feelings of fullness
  • Urgent and/or frequent needs to urinate
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain

6) Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer affects the cervix, the opening to the womb. Early stages of cervical cancer are easier to treat but also produce no discernable symptoms. By the time you notice these symptoms, you’re in a more advanced stage and need immediate treatment:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Vaginal pain
  • Vaginal odor

Fortunately, early detection through exams such as pap smears will tell you quickly if you have cervical cancer. Better yet, cervical cancer is the only kind of cancer that can be prevented via vaccination. Talk to your doctor about the cervical cancer vaccine (also known as the HPV vaccine).

7) Vaginal Cancer

One of the rarest forms of gynecological cancer, vaginal cancer affects the lining of the birth canal and is most common in women between the ages of 50-70. Symptoms of vaginal cancer include:

  • Post-menopausal or unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal lumps
  • Watery discharge
  • Pain
  • Difficulty using the restroom

Vaginal cancer can develop later in life if the patient experienced cervical cancer when she was younger. That’s why catching cervical cancer or preventing it through a vaccine is so crucial.

8) Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer affects the outer portions of the vagina, including the vaginal lips and just inside the opening. This type of cancer can lead to long-term and irreversible effects if not treated quickly. Symptoms of vulvar cancer or pre-cancer include:

  • Persistent itching
  • Open sores lasting for an abnormally long time
  • Wart-like lumps or growths
  • Bleeding or vaginal discharge other than menstruation
  • Genital ulcers
  • Noticeable lightening or darkening of the skin
  • Trouble controlling bladder or bowels

Treatments will include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and other common cancer treatments. The sooner you receive a diagnosis, the more likely you are to make a full recovery.

Working to Reduce Cancer in Women

Cancer is a devastating disease that has a profound impact on its victims’ physical and mental health, even after successful treatment. But the earlier you can detect symptoms of cancer in yourself and see a doctor, the higher the likelihood that your healthcare provider can help you quickly. Don’t wait–if your symptoms persist without improving, call your doctor.

Join the conversation to hear from cancer survivors and learn more about protecting yourself.

Dr Abbas Jafri MD