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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Menopause and Cancer

AFTER the menopause, a woman may experience changes that may or may not be related to decreased hormone levels. These include serious conditions like cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and cancer. Early measures taken may prevent or detect these conditions early.
There is no increased risk of cancer with the menopause. Cancer is not as common as heart attacks or strokes. There are different types of cancer that affect women. All women, especially senior women, must be aware of the common cancers that affect them.

Breast cancer is the commonest cancer. It is feared most by women and is frequently the focus of the media so much so that many women think it is a very common condition.

In fact, its incidence is much less than cardiovascular disease or osteoporosis. When detected and treated early, it is very amenable to treatment.

Death rates have declined in recent years. The five-year survival rate for localised cancer is more than 90%. The factors that increase the risk of breast cancer include:

• Age. The risk increases with age reaching about 10% by 80 years of age.
• Heredity. A woman's risk is increased if her mother or sister had the condition, especially if before the menopause.
• Early age of first period.
• Never been pregnant.
• Obesity
• Alcohol consumption.
• Sedentary lifestyle.
• Long term ( ie.more than five years) hormone therapy (HT) has been reported to be associated with a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.
• Radiotherapy for other cancers.

Cervical cancer is very treatable if detected early with five-year survival rates of more than 90%.

It is thought to be caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which is acquired through sexual intercourse. Most HPV infections do not result in cervical cancer. The risk of HPV increases with early sexual intercourse, multiple partners, smoking and HIV infection. Neither the menopause nor the use of hormone therapy increases the risk of cervical cancer.

Endometrial (uterine) cancer is very treatable if detected early with five-year survival rates of 95%.

The risk factors of endometrial cancer include:

• Early age of first period.
• Late menopause.
• Never been pregnant.
• Obesity.
• Diabetes.
• Hypertension.
• Use of oestrogen without progestogen.
• Use of tamoxifen.

Previous pregnancy and the use of the birth control Pill appear to provide some protection against endometrial cancer.

Ovarian cancer is not common yet it causes more deaths than any other cancer of the reproductive organs, mainly because it usually presents at an advanced and less curable stage. One of the main reasons for its late detection is the absence of symptoms in the early stages. If detected and treated early, five-year survival rates can exceed 90%.

The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age, especially in women who have never been pregnant or those with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. The risk is lower in those who have been pregnant, used birth control Pills or had tubal ligation. Neither the menopause nor the use of hormone therapy increases the risk of ovarian cancer.

Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in women in many developed countries. The increase parallels the increasing number of women who smoke cigarettes. As such, it can be expected to pose a problem for Malaysian women in future.
Colorectal cancer is not associated with the menopause but with increasing age, a family history of the cancer, colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, physical inactivity and smoking.

Most cancers can be successfully treated today. The most important factor in treatment success is early detection. Regular check ups and the early seeking of medical attention is advisable for not only menopausal women but all seniors.
e-healtharticles.com


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