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Top Health Threats Among Women


March 29, 2022

Breast and cervical cancers are two of the most frequent cancers in women. According to the most recent worldwide statistics, almost half a million women die each year from cervical cancer and half a million from breast cancer. Early detection of both of these cancers is critical to keeping women alive and well. Let’s talk more about breast cancer and cervical cancer!

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a disease that begins in the breast tissue. It happens when breast cells mutate and expand uncontrollably, resulting in the formation of a mass of tissue (tumour). Breast cancer, like other types of cancer, has the ability to enter and expand into the tissue around your breast. Additionally, it can spread to other areas of your body and produce new tumours. This is referred to as metastasis.

Breast cancer can happen in different areas of the breast. A breast is composed of three major structural components: lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. The lobules are the milk-producing glands. The ducts are tube-like structures that transport milk to the nipple. The connective tissue (which is composed of fibrous and fatty tissue) envelops and supports everything. Breast cancers most frequently originate in the ducts or lobules.

The Most Common Types of Breast Cancer

  • Invasive ductal carcinoma. The cancer cells develop in the ducts and spread to other areas of the breast tissue. Cancer cells that are invasive can also travel to other regions of the body, or metastasis.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma. Cancer cells develop in the lobules and subsequently move to nearby breast tissues. Additionally, these invasive cancer cells have the potential to spread to other areas of the body.


Not everyone has the same symptoms of breast cancer. Certain individuals have no indications or symptoms at all.

Here are some symptoms of breast cancer:

  • A lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • Swelling of part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk such as blood.
  • Changes in the size or the shape of the breast.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.

Be aware that these symptoms can happen with other illnesses that aren’t cancer.

Risk factors

  • Age. 55 years of age or older increases your risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Family history and genetics. Your risk increases if you have parents, siblings, children or other close relatives who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Smoking. Previous studies found that smoking was associated with a significantly increased risk of breast cancer (Jones et al., 2017).
  • Alcohol use. Previous studies found that alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk in breast cancer (McDonald et al., 2013). It is recommended to stop drinking entirely to reduce breast cancer risk.
  • Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.

Breast Cancer Screening Test 

Breast cancer screening refers to the examination of a woman’s breasts for cancer prior to the appearance of signs and symptoms of the illness.


A mammogram is a breast X-ray. Mammograms are the most effective technique for many women to detect breast cancer early, when it is simpler to treat and before it becomes large enough to feel or cause symptoms. Mammograms performed on a regular basis can help reduce the chance of dying from breast cancer. For the majority of women of screening age, a mammography is the most effective approach to detect breast cancer at the moment.

  • Women aged 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.

Breast Self-Awareness

Being aware of the appearance and feel of your breasts can assist you in identifying potentially concerning signs such as lumps, discomfort, or changes in size. These might include alterations discovered through a self-examination of the breasts. You should notify your doctor or health care provider of any changes you detect.


What Can You Do to Lower Your Chance of Getting Breast Cancer?

There are many other factors that can affect your breast cancer risk throughout our lifetime. While certain factors, such as age or family history, are beyond our control. 

Here are some tips that you can do to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer:

  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit or avoid alcohol use
  • Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy
  • Breastfeeding is recommended as previous studies found that it can reduce risk of breast cancer

Cervical Cancer 

Cervical cancer occurs in the cervix, which is located at the lower part of the uterus that links to the vagina. Cervical cancer is mostly caused by the Human papillomavirus (HPV). It is a very common virus that is spread by sexual contact. HPV is the most common genital viral infection. Majority of the women and men who are sexually active will get infected more than once in their lives. Fortunately, more than 90% of affected populations have recovered naturally. Although the majority of HPV infections recover on their own, there is still a risk for the virus to survive for years which can contribute to the process by which certain cervical cells develop into cancer cells.

Type of HPV 

HPV isn’t just one virus. HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, and some are riskier than others. Some of them cause a type of growth called papillomas, which are more commonly known as warts.

  • HPV may infect skin cells and those lining the genitals, anus, mouth, and throat, but not blood cells or internal organs such as the heart or lungs.
  • HPV may be transmitted from person to person by skin-to-skin contact. HPV is transferred by sexual activity, which includes vaginal, anal, and even oral intercourse.
  • Some types of HPV strains cause warts on different areas of the body. Certain types create common warts on the hands and feet, while others induce warts on the lips or tongue.

Low risk types

This types of HPV may cause warts on or around the female and male genital organs and in the anal area but they are seldom linked to cancer.

High risk types

It can cause several types of cancer including cancer of the cervix, vulva, and vagina women.

Other Risk Factors

  • Have a weakened immune system. You may be more prone to develop cervical cancer if your immune system is weakened by other health conditions such as having HPV.
  • Multiple sexual partners. The more sexual partners you have, the greater your risk of getting HPV, which can cause cervical cancer.
  • Smoking. Women who smoke are about twice as likely as those who don’t smoke to get cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is almost twice as likely to occur in women who smoke than those who do not smoke. 
  • Long-term usage of birth control pills. Women who have used oral contraceptives for 5 or more years have a higher risk of cervical cancer than women who have never used oral contraceptives. The longer a woman uses oral contraceptives, the greater the increase in her risk of cervical cancer. (NIH, 2022)
  • Having given birth to three or more children. Women who have had 3 or more full-term pregnancies have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. It is thought this is probably due to the increased exposure to HPV infection with sexual activity.


Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms.

The common signs and symptoms include:

  • Vaginal bleeding between periods
  • Menstrual bleeding that is longer or heavier than usual
  • Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
  • Bleeding after intercourse
  • A change in your vaginal discharge such as more discharge or it may have a strong or unusual colour or smell
  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause


What Can You Do to Lower Your Chance of Getting Cervical Cancer?

  • Get HPV vaccination. Receiving a vaccination to prevent HPV infection may reduce your risk of cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers.
  • Have routine Pap tests. Pap tests can detect potentially precancerous problems of the cervix, which can then be monitored or treated to avoid cervical cancer. It is recommended to start routine Pap tests at the age of 21 and repeat them every three years.
  • Practice safe sex. Always wear a condom and limit your sexual partners to reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
  • Don’t smoke. Don’t smoke or quit smoking to reduce your risk of cervical cancer. If you are addicted to smoking, It is also recommended to discuss with your doctor about strategies for quitting smoking.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer? Retrieved 3 March 2021, from

Cervical cancer. (2021). Retrieved 3 March 2021, from

Jones, M., Schoemaker, M., Wright, L., Ashworth, A., & Swerdlow, A. (2017). Smoking and risk of breast cancer in the Generations Study cohort. Breast Cancer Research, 19(1).

McDonald, J., Goyal, A., & Terry, M. (2013). Alcohol Intake and Breast Cancer Risk: Weighing the Overall Evidence. Current Breast Cancer Reports, 5(3), 208-221.

Women’s health. (2021). Retrieved 3 March 2021, from

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