This article was written by Dr. Joaquín Ruiz Sánchez, gynecologist. It is posted here with their permission.
I am going to tell you the story of a patient, whom we will call “Juanita.” Unfortunately, this is not a hypothetical case, but a very common one in offices like mine. She is a 46-year-old woman in good health, who had six children through childbirth and came for consultation because she had been presenting constant bleeding for about a month. According to the routine I checked her and found a 6cm tumor on her cervix, the subsequent biopsy reported an aggressive type of cancer invading her cervix. Why? It was her first question, if she had never felt bad, if it didn’t hurt at all. Like her, every year thousands of women who “don’t feel bad” discover conditions as serious as cancer when there is little or nothing left to do to cure them. So today I want to share some tips to prevent this from happening to you, or to any woman.
In our country (Mexico) and in most Latin American countries, the leading cause of death in women between 15 and 55 years of age corresponds to malignant tumors, that is, cancer. After that age it is only exceeded by causes associated with diabetes and heart disease. Recently, the WHO published that cancer was one of the most frequent causes of mortality worldwide, contributing with 4 million new cases per year (in addition to those of previous years) and with 8.2 million deaths related to cancer per year . As if this were not enough, the numbers of new cases are expected to increase to 22 million in the next 2 decades and, unfortunately, 60% of these cases occur in Africa, Asia and America (from Mexico to the south). For women, the most common cancers are the mammary gland, colon and rectum, lung, cervix, and stomach.
Fortunately, it is not all bad news. There are three actions we can take to protect ourselves from this trend.
Timely and adequate treatment
Did you notice it? Cancer is curable. And the only truly effective remedy is made up of those three steps. Do you remember the famous “better safe than sorry” from our grandparents’ times? This is not the exception. The actions that we can carry out to prevent are small modifications to the lifestyle that can be summarized in these points:
1. Avoid exposing yourself to tobacco smoke or other air pollutants
For example, wood smoke (indoors) and pollution. Tobacco use is associated with 20% of cancer deaths and 70% of lung cancers, making it the most important modifiable risk factor.
2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
As part of this, it includes a proper diet (rich in fruits and vegetables), not being overweight, doing regular exercise and limiting the use of alcohol; up to 27% of breast cancers (which are the leading cause of death from gynecological cancer in our region) are associated with poor diet and overweight. Stomach, colon and rectal cancers are very strongly linked to diet and low consumption of fruits and vegetables.
3. Lead a responsible sexual life
99% of cervical cancers (the second leading cause of cancer death in our region) are associated with infection by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The main route of transmission of this infection is the sexual route and, although there is a vaccine that prevents infection against the most frequent types of cancer, it only protects against 4 of the 40 types that could infect the genital region. Is it worth it to be included in the vaccination schedules? Yes, knowing that that is not enough, as long as you do not have a conscious, informed and responsible sex life.
4. Early Detection
We all know that you have to go to the doctor once a year, women should undergo a gynecological examination by an expert from the age of 21, as well as a Papanicolaou, from the age of 30 (and not before), the techniques of detection of HPV and a review by a gynecologist, a biannual review of the mammary gland by an expert is recommended and from the age of 40 an annual mammogram, and more. However, going to the dentist once a year does not relieve us of the need to brush our teeth every day; the most important prevention work should be done routinely and if possible daily: checking the secretions, the bleeding pattern, the menstrual cycle pattern, the appearance or changes in the skin or in the breasts; changes in intestinal and digestive habits; in short, take care of yourself and check yourself EVERY day.
5. Timely and adequate treatment
When in doubt, consult your doctor! When any of the above fails, go to your trusted doctor for a review and carry out the appropriate treatments, he will explain the treatment possibilities, as well as its possible risks and benefits and together you can make decisions to preserve your health.
You, and no one but you, are responsible for your health. You live in your body, which allows you to do all your activities. So remember! Visit the doctor at least once a year for a general check-up and follow-up. Take your mom, sisters, friends, daughters. The doctor can help you develop an adequate routine to check you, because remember that it is not enough to go to the doctor, we must take responsibility for our health, so as not to be another “Juanita”, to be healthy and whole. Know yourself, love yourself, take care of yourself.
See you soon!
If you want more information about it, I invite you to read the following articles.
readBeat cancer before it knocks on your door
Or you can also read: The importance of the smile in the battle against cancer