According to the WHO (2017), the average life expectancy of women in Malaysia is 77.5 years. As women are now living for longer, we should embrace the fact that Cancer – or the C Word, is real and plays a part in all our lives. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand as it affects our friends, relative, family, or the very person dearest to our hearts.
Dr. Alexandriia See, an OBGYN Specialist at Gleneagles Medini who has completed her specialist training in the United Kingdom shares on how we can beat cancer.
Q. Do you fear the C Word?
A. I believe we all fear being told we have cancer. It is only human. However, due to the advancement of medicine and technology, we can now all take positive steps to detect cancer early and even prevent it from occurring. If cancer is detected early, treatment can be curative.
Q. What are the Big C’s?
A. In Malaysia, the top 3 women cancers are breast (1 in 3), colorectal (1 in 10), followed by cervical cancer (7 in 100). For these cancers, once you start having symptoms, the cancer may have already spread to the later stages. Therefore, it is important to have regular health screening.
Q. How can we beat C?
A. We are fortunate that early detection of the top 3 C’s can be possible via mammograms, faecal occult blood screening as well as Pap + HPV testing. These screening tests can be performed annually.
Cervical cancer is particularly unique as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) causes it. Therefore, current HPV vaccines offer protection against cervical cancer. Females aged between 9 and 45 years old are eligible. There is also a pre-cancerous stage that we can simply screen for and treat to prevent progression to cancer.
Q. Are these tests painful?
A. None of these tests are painful. Some may find it uncomfortable in which case, speak to your doctor and they can find a test that suits you.
Q. When to seek help?
i. Breast Cancer
Women can perform self-examination at home. If you notice a lump, pain, discharge, skin and/or nipple changes you should seek medical advice.
ii. Cervical Cancer
Women may experience abnormal vaginal bleeding such as bleeding in between your menses or bleeding after intercourse. Some women may also experience abnormal watery discharge. Pain is usually felt at the later stages.
iii. Colorectal Cancer
Women may have unexplained weight loss. They may also have a change in bowel habit, abdominal pain and/or bloody faeces.
Figure 1. Breast Self-Examination
Q. Are there any foods that I can take to prevent C?
A. Lessons from Okinawa, Japan still holds the record for longest life expectancy with Okinawans having the most number of healthy centenarians. Their diet is low in carbohydrate and regularly includes bitter melon, tofu, sweet potatoes, turmeric, brown rice, shitake mushrooms and seaweed. Most of their food is also non-processed.
Let’s beat Cancer Together
To be honest, we are all guilty of neglecting our health. We plan for holidays, our spas and facials but put aside our trip to the doctor. We spend dollars on dining and shopping but we are mindful of the cost of screening. Together, let us start investing in our health. Let us start living healthier today.
“It’s time for us to stop being afraid of Cancer – It’s time for Cancer to be afraid of us” – Morgan Freeman