Breast cancer is the second leading cause of Cancer amongst women in the U.S. Further, ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of death for women in the U.S. and the fifth most worldwide. Although the disease can develop at any age, the risk increases with age. So ever wonder why these are the leading cancers in women? To know why first we must know what these diseases are.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovaries are the pair of organs in the female reproductive system. They are located in the pelvis, on either side of the uterus.
The three main kinds of cells present in the ovaries are:
– Surface Epithelium cells: Cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary
– Germ Cells: Cells that produce the eggs
– Stromal Cells: Cells that produce female hormones and hold the ovary together
When any kind of cell (not just these three) present in the ovary, fails to follow the natural mechanism of developing and growing, then they form a tumour. However, these tumours may or may not be cancerous.
Non-cancerous tumours are not very active and do not affect any other body tissue. However, cancerous tumours are very active and keep on growing, developing and spreading to other body tissues, through metastasizing (the medical term for cancer that spreads to a different part of the body from where it started). Know more here.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast serves as the mammary gland in females. It is the bundle of tissues overlying the chest. Formation and death of a cell forms a lump causing change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, or a red scaly patch of skin. This is where the disease may develop.
Although, it is also important to note that not all lumps in the breast are cancerous. Most commonly, it begins in the duct (which carries milk to the nipples) and is called ductal cancer.
Another one is lobular cancer. Blood and lymph systems work as transporters. So consequently, they also end up carrying infected cells to other parts of the body.
The more the cancerous cell travels through blood or lymph, the more the risk of cancer in another part of body increase.
In the case of breast cancer, 80% chances are one will first feel a lump or change in shape of the breast. Know more here.
Why are females at higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer?
Now, you might be thinking, women are at higher risk for the very obvious biological reasons. However, it needs to be pointed out that, men also suffer from breast cancer. Just like females, males too have breast tissues. Though, they don’t make breast stimulating hormones. Because of this, their breast stays flat and small.
For men, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is 1 in 1,000.
Risk factors for Breast Cancer
Risk factors that trigger the symptoms in women are :
– inherited genes
– radiation exposure
– the beginning of menopause
– having your first child at an older age
– having never been pregnant
– postmenopausal hormone therapy
– drinking alcohol
Risk factors in men for breast cancer are few and rare in compared to women. Plus men have a small amount of breast tissue as compared to women which also decreases their chances of having breast cancer. The triggers include:
– a rare genetic condition called Klinefelter’s syndrome,
– having mumps orchitis,
– a serious liver disease or
– having enlargement of the breast through hormones or some infection.
To reduce the risk of breast cancer, you must limit alcohol intake, smoking, limit duration and dosage of hormone therapy, stay fit and avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution.
Risk factors for Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer can be caused only if you have ovaries. Additionally, certain factors increase the risk of it:
-never being pregnant,
-oestrogen replacement theory,
-use of intrauterine device ( T-shaped birth control) and
-polycystic ovary syndrome.
However, there are few things that may decrease the risk of having ovarian cancer such as :
Breastfeeding: the longer women breastfeed, the more decreased would be the risk of ovarian or fallopian cancer.
Pregnancy: Having a full-time pregnancy may lower the risk of ovarian or fallopian cancer.
Birth control pills: Women who take an oral contraceptive for more than 3 years are less likely to develop ovarian cancer.
Surgical Procedure: Removal of both ovaries from a woman having a high risk of fallopian or tube cancer.
Edited by Preetika Dubey