We Women Need to be More Vigilant – Get over Our Laxness and Oblivion

“Women are raised to be the caretakers, so they’re less likely to seek out services because it’s about taking care of others, not themselves. We need to change that mentality”
~Lorraine Brown

Women always give priority to their family duties and pay less heed to their own selves, to their healthcare needs and well-being. But this attitude needs to change. As Michelle Obama rightly said “We women need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.”
Common types of cancer prevalent among women are Breast, Ovarian, Oral (Mainly due to tobacco consumption) and Cervical, which are treatable when detected at an early stage.
Here are a few suggestions about how to screen and be on the guard:

  • Look for these visual symptoms in your breasts:
  • Self-examination of breasts is one of the ways to identify lumps or unusual growths at an initial stage. Do self-examination of breasts every month. In case of pre-menopausal women it should be done at the end of the monthly period. Many women prefer to do the examination in the bath or shower.
  • If you find a lump or notice other unusual changes, don’t panic. About 80% of the lumps are not cancerous. But it is advisable to see a doctor promptly for further evaluation.
    Watch this video to learn about Breast Cancer symptoms and how to do self-examination of breasts:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4MZqnYf_Yg – For English version
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gHTqJf3GP0 – For Hindi version
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxPxvukiqLo – For Kannada version
  • Thirdly, it is important to do certain periodic tests and check-ups. Pap smear test should be started at the age of 21, and if the results are normal, then one should repeat this test once every 3-5 years. For women, above the age of 40, Mammography (Breast imaging test) should be done once in 2 years. In case there is a family history of cancer, or other health concerns, then it is better to follow the doctor’s advice for the frequency of the tests and other tests should be performed as per the doctor’s prescription.
  • Here are few of the common symptoms for Oral Cancer:
    1. Persistent mouth sore or pain in the mouth or bad breath
    2. Lump inside the mouth or thickening of the cheek
    3. White or red patches on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
    4. A sore throat or feeling of a lump in the throat
    5. Difficulty in swallowing or chewing or moving the jaw or tongue
    6. Feeling of numbness of the tongue or elsewhere in the mouth
    7. Changes in the voice
    8. Weight loss

Though the above symptoms may be for other reasons, but it is always good to consult a doctor if the symptoms persist over several days.
Here is a good read from American Cancer Society on Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html

Did you know about 93% of cervical cancers are preventable. Vaccines against Cervical Cancer are available currently in the market. According to the World health Organization, the evaluation of the cost effectiveness and impact of the vaccine in low and middle income countries is a research priority. WHO also recommends that women needs to undergo regular screening for Cervical cancer in spite of being vaccinated as the currently available vaccines do not protect against all HPV high risk subtypes.

Many of us have the misconception that cancerous growths are painful. But in most cases, malignant growths in breasts, especially at an initial stage may not be painful. It’s only through regular self-examination, check-ups, being more alert and watchful that one can catch the devil early. Do not put off the tests and check-ups assuming you are pre-menopausal, or you do not have a family history of cancer, or you lead a very healthy lifestyle.

Share and spread the message for screening, detection, and diagnosis.

Arpita Bhattacharjee,
ICS Volunteer






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