Cancer is one of the most life-threatening diseases that require a diagnosed individual to have strength, courage, and confidence. Cancer adversely affects the quality of life of a sufferer and their loved ones. It is a disease that occurs when changes occur in the normal cells within the body. Cancer is of two types:
- Benign tumor - These are not cancerous and tends to develop slowly. Benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body and cause a problem when they become very large and interferes with the functioning of other organs.
- Malignant tumors - These type of tumors grow fast as compared to benign tumors and can spread to other parts of the body while destroying the neighboring tissues.
The prevalence of cancer is high in both, men and women. There are some types of cancer that occurs only in women or cancers that mostly affects women. Some of the cancers that are common among women are as follows:
1. Cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancer in women worldwide. The cervix is a part of a female reproductive system that connects the uterus to the vagina. The cervix has two main types of cells, squamous and flat cells. Cervical cancer occurs due to abnormal changes in either of these cell types in the cervix. The cervix performs various functions such as producing moisture to lubricate the vagina, produces mucus that helps sperm travel up the fallopian tube to fertilize an egg.
At an initial stage, cervical cancer may not cause any sign or symptoms but as this disease progresses, it can cause bleeding and discharge from vagina such as bleeding after having sexual intercourse. Other symptoms of cervical cancer include pelvic pain, unusual vaginal discharge, and foul smell. Cervical cancer is of two types:
- Squamous cell carcinoma - It is the most common type of cervical cancer and it begins in the thin and flat cells lining the outer part of the cervix.
- Adenocarcinoma - It is a less common type of cervical cancer and it begins in the glandular cells of the cervix. Adenocarcinoma is difficult to diagnose.
2. Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the breast. In the United States, breast cancer is one of the causes of cancer related deaths in women. In women, the breasts are made up of milk glands that consist of lobules and ducts. Lobules produce milk and ducts are the tubes that carry milk to the nipples. Breast cancer occurs when there is an abnormal growth of the cells lining the breast lobules and ducts. The growth of these cells can be uncontrollable and can spread to other parts of the body.
Breast cancer is mainly of two types:
- Invasive breast cancer - Invasive breast cancer is a type that can travel from breast to other parts of the body such as liver, lungs, bones, and brain. This type of breast cancer is further divided into two types- invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. Invasive ductal carcinoma is also known as infiltrating ductal carcinoma and it begins in the milk ducts of the breast. Invasive lobular carcinoma is a type that begins in the lobules of the breast.
- Non-invasive breast cancer - Non-invasive breast cancer is a type that does not spread beyond the ducts or lobules. Ductal carcinoma in situ is a non-invasive type of breast cancer and in this type of cancer, the abnormal cells are contained in the milk ducts of the breast.
3. Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer. The thyroid is a gland in the neck that makes thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland makes two main hormones - thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones control various body functions such as controlling the body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism.
In the United States, thousands of people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer every year and statistics shows that women are more likely to develop thyroid cancer as compared to the men. There are three main types of thyroid cancer:
- Differentiated thyroid cancer - Most thyroid cancers are differentiated thyroid cancer and these cancers develop from thyroid follicular cells. Differentiated thyroid cancer further includes three types of cancer - papillary cancer, follicular cancer, hurthle cell cancer.
- Medullary thyroid carcinoma - Medullary thyroid carcinoma is not a very common type of thyroid cancer and it begins from the C cells of the thyroid gland which makes calcitonin- a hormone that regulates the calcium level in the blood. Medullary thyroid carcinoma is of two types - sporadic medullary thyroid carcinoma and familial medullary thyroid carcinoma.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer - Anaplastic thyroid cancer is also known as undifferentiated thyroid cancer. It is a rare form of thyroid cancer and it develops from an existing papillary or follicular cancer.