Breast cancer constitutes 15-35 percent of all female cancers reported in the Arab region
The main types of gynecologic cancers are uterine cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, and gestational trophoblastic disease
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 23rd Feb 2020: Recent reports indicate a rising number of breast cancer cases involving Arab women less than 50 years of age, according to a senior gynecologic oncologist of Apollo Hospitals.
Dr. Sarika Gupta, Consultant – Gynecologic Oncology and Robotic Gynecology at Apollo Indraprastha Hospital, also noted that breast cancer is diagnosed in more advanced stages in the Middle Eastern countries compared to Western nations.
“The probable reason for such phenomena is the lack of awareness of breast screening and hesitation of Arab women to consult a doctor if they notice any abnormality. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer afflicting women globally, including the Middle Eastern countries. It constitutes 15-35 percent of all female cancers reported in the Arab region,” she said.
The main symptoms of breast cancer are a painless lump in the breast or armpit, retraction of skin or nipple, and breast skin changes. To protect themselves from the disease, Dr. Gupta said all women aged 50 to 54 years should get mammograms every year, while all women aged 55 years and older should get mammograms every two years.
The World Health Organisation estimates that cancer cases in the Middle East region will double between 2012 and 2030. Breast cancer most often affects women alongside colorectal, lung, and gynecologic, a form of cancer that affects the female reproductive system.
Gynecologic cancers are also becoming prevalent in the region. Dr. Gupta said the main types of gynecologic cancers are uterine cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, and gestational trophoblastic disease.
Cervical cancer, the second most common cause of death by cancer in women, is caused by oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. It can be prevented through a vaccine and effective screening program. Despite the preventive measures, however, the burden of cervical cancer in the UAE has doubled over the last six years. The chief reason for higher incidence of cervical cancer in the Middle Eastern countries is lack of awareness of screening, vaccination, and symptoms.
“Cervical cancer can be prevented by giving three doses of HPV vaccine to young girls 10 years old and above and by starting a routine pap smear examination every three years for women 22 years old and above. The major symptoms of cervix cancer and its precursor are bleeding or spotting after intercourse; abnormal menstrual bleeding; foul-smelling discharge; post-menopausal bleeding; and pelvic pain. Women should see their gynecologists immediately if they experience these symptoms,” Dr. Gupta said.
Uterine cancer, also called endometrial cancer, is the sixth most commonly occurring cancer in the world. The rate of endometrial cancer is higher in the Gulf countries as compared to the rest of Asia. Risk factors include obesity, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, and unopposed estrogen intake, among others.
“Uterine cancer is associated with symptoms of abnormal uterine bleeding or post-menopausal bleeding in the very initial stages. It is, therefore, mostly diagnosed in stage one. Women can prevent this cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle, losing weight, and seeing their gynecologists at the onset of any abnormality in the menstrual cycle,” she said.
Ovarian cancer, meantime, is considered the deadliest gynecologic cancer. It is also alarming that the awareness level about this disease is quite low, with its symptoms are mostly being ignored. Patients usually present with persistent bloating of the abdomen, early satiety, loss of weight, and abdominal pain.
Dr. Gupta added: “Another fact that the public needs to know is the hereditary nature of ovarian cancer. Up to 15 percent of ovarian cancer is hereditary. Women with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer should talk to their physicians regarding the eligibility of genetic counselling and further prevention of cancer in the family.”
Global cancer statistics released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer show that gynecologic cancers accounted for more than 609,000 deaths in 2018 out of the 3.8 million deaths due to all cancers in women combined. Given the sheer number of deaths, Dr. Gupta underscored the need to increase public awareness about female cancers to fight the scourge.
“We need to empower women when it comes to their well-being, especially in terms of their reproductive health. Educating them is just one part of the battle but it is crucial nonetheless. Once they fully understand the many forms of female cancers, they can seek medical treatment right away if something ails them. Early detection leads to higher chances of defeating the disease,” she said, adding:
“Women should not be shy and should seek medical help when they think something is amiss in their bodies. They should be more proactive when it comes to their health and well-being. This will help them and their families in the long run.”