As we come to the end of National Cancer Prevention Month for another year, we want to take a look at four of the most prevalent forms of cancers and give you an insight into them, along with some of their associated symptoms and what steps you can take to reduce the risk of them, and these include
Breast cancer in women has exceeded lung cancer as the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer. In 2020 an estimated 2.3 million new cases were reported, and there were nearly 700,000 deaths worldwide. While in Malaysia, breast cancer accounted for 17% of all newly reported cases of cancer in men and women. In women alone, the figure was a staggering 32.9% or 8,500 women.
Early symptoms of breast cancer can include;
- Thickening in the breast, a lump or knot
- A lump under the arm
- A change in the shape and size of the breast
- Tenderness or discharge, including bleeding from the nipple
- Soreness or a rash on the nipple, along with scales and itchiness
- A breast that feels warm or appears swollen
- A change in skin colour and texture such as dimpling, puckering or redness
If you start to show or notice any of these symptoms, take immediate action and talk to your doctor or health care provider. Screening saves lives when detected early; the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99%.
Reducing the risk of breast cancer
There are several courses of action you can take to help reduce the risk of breast cancer, including
- Not smoking or stopping smoking.
- Taking regular daily exercise
- Reducing your alcohol intake
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Breastfeeding may also help lower the risk.
Lung cancer remained the most commonly diagnosed cancer and is the leading cause of cancer death, with an estimated 1.8 million deaths. It accounted for 11.4% of new cases of cancer reported worldwide in 2020. Lung cancer is among the top five causes of death among men in Malaysia, and last year some 5000 new cases were reported.
While smoking cigarettes continues to be the leading cause of lung cancer, secondhand smoke or passive smoking and other smoking devices can also cause lung cancer.
The early symptoms of lung cancer
In the early stages, there may be no symptoms; it’s only as the lung cancer progresses and becomes more dominant that symptoms may occur, and these could include;
- Constant chest pains
- Coughing up blood
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Wheezing or continuous shortness of breath
- Repeated bouts of Bronchitis or Pneumonia
- Constant feeling of tiredness
- A cough that won’t go away
Talk to your doctor or health care provider if you have any of these symptoms; early detection and screening are critical for lung cancer.
Reducing the risks of lung cancer
Because the early symptoms of lung cancer are so difficult to spot, it’s essential to consider what you can do to reduce lung cancer risk before it’s too late. It starts with a change of lifestyle that includes, among others, not or stopping smoking.
- If you’re a heavy smoker or former smoker, get screened for lung cancer. Doctors recommend that current or former smokers who are age 55 – 80, have 30 pack-year histories, and either still smoke or have quit in the past 15 years should be screened.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t rely on supplements: beta-carotene supplements are known to increase the risk of lung cancer.
- Stay away from secondhand smoke and make your home and community smoke-free.
Cervical cancer rarely develops in women younger than 20. It is most frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44, with the average age at diagnosis being 50, and in 2020 over 600,000 new cases were diagnosed worldwide. However, many older women do not realise that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they continue to age.
Here in Malaysia, Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women, but its screening rate is unacceptably low. Only 12.9% of women have a pap smear once in their life, usually after giving birth.
What to look for regarding cervical cancer
Unfortunately, cervical cancer does not show symptoms until it’s in the later stages and can only be detected following a pelvic exam, HPV tests and a Pap test. However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should seek advice from your doctor or health provider.
- Bleeding or pain during or after sex
- Menstrual bleeding that lasts longer and is heavier than usual
- Increased or unusual discharge from your vagina
- Blood spots or light bleeding at times other than an average period
- Bleeding after menopause
Reducing the risks of Cervical cancer
Today, lives are saved because of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and routine screening. Every person with a cervix, including trans men with cervixes, should be screened according to global guidelines. Along with vaccine and screenings, other ways to help reduce the risk of cervical cancer include
- Practising safe sex and using a new condom the right way every time to protect yourself; however, this does not guarantee 100% protection.
- Don’t smoke – if you do, then stop.
- At age 65, talk with your health care provider or doctor about whether you still need to be screened.
- If you are of average risk, have routine cervical cancer/ HPV screening from age 21 to 65. Screening options are a primary HPV test alone every five years, co-testing with a Pap test and an HPV test every five years, or a Pap test alone every three years
Most prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over 65, and it rarely occurs in those younger than 40. Prostate cancer is the second most commonly occurring cancer in men and the fourth most commonly occurring cancer overall; in 2020, 1.4 million new cases and over 300,000 deaths were reported globally. In Malaysia, Prostate cancer is the third highest cancer among men and accounted for 9.3% or 2,146 of all new cancer cases reported in 2020.
How to spot the symptoms of Prostate cancer
There are no symptoms in the early stages of prostate cancer; however, some men experience symptoms that may include:
- Urinary problems, such as not being able to urinate, having trouble starting or stopping urine flow, having a weak or interrupted urine flow, or feeling pain or a burning sensation while urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Painful or difficult erection
- Pain in the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs
Symptoms similar to these may also be caused by other health problems, including enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH); hence, it is essential to speak with your doctor or health care provider if you are suffering from any of these symptoms.
Reducing the risk of Prostate cancer
If you are at average risk, start talking to your health care provider or doctor at age 50 about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening.
Early detection of prostate cancer followed by prompt treatment saves lives, but some men are treated for prostate cancers that will never cause them harm, and they live without any side effects or complications of the treatment.
Beside early screening, other ways to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer include
- Maintain a balanced weight.
- Enjoy a healthy diet.
- Restrict your alcohol intake
- Exercise regularly
- Don’t smoke; if you do, then stop – A recent study of men who stopped smoking before being diagnosed with prostate cancer shows that quitting may slow cancer development or lessen its severity.
There is no foolproof way to prevent cancer.
Despite everything we’ve outlined here, you must remember that currently, worldwide, there is no sure-fire way to prevent cancer. Certain risk factors increase the likelihood; but, you can lower these risks and help stop cancer before it starts by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, getting the recommended regular cancer screenings and vaccinating against certain viruses.
About Cancer Pro
Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals in Malaysia and is the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers. For more information regarding all aspects of the cancers we have outlined here, along with the treatments available, please visit www.cancer-pro.com.