24 September is Cancer Research Day, and we think it is good to remember how important it is to keep research going, as well as to remember what steps to take to prevent and diagnose cancer early.
The Spanish association against cancer has been doing research for 50 years, and currently has 401 research projects, covering most areas related to cancer and more than 1000 researchers. This has led to an increase in survival, currently reaching 90% in some tumours and 57% on average in others.
In 1953 an oncology patient had a 25% survival rate, in 2014 the average was 57% and the cancer association's goal is to reach 70%. Thanks to advances in research, cancer is no longer always a fatal disease. Although it is still the second cause of death in Europe, with 280,000 people diagnosed each year and more than 112,000 deaths in Spain.
The improvement of these figures depends on the advancement of research, requiring more knowledge about the disease to enable prevention, early diagnosis and more effective treatment.
Due to the pandemic situation, the situation of cancer patients and their families has become more complicated, causing emotional stress and difficulties in health care. It is something that worries a lot, that is why from Ginecenter we want to tell you what ways there are to prevent or have an early diagnosis.
There are more than 200 types of cancer, but we are going to talk about gynaecological and breast cancer.
In recent years, the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased and progress has been made in the detection of endometrial (uterine) and breast cancer due to advances in medicine and the increased reach and dissemination of information campaigns. However, progress remains to be made compared to some European countries, which have achieved a higher rate of inclusion of women in the different screening methods.
Types of gynaecological cancer
It is the second most common cancer in women worldwide.
Early detection is primarily based on the cytology. Due to its high efficacy, it is recommended to be repeated annually. Mild cellular alterations are often reversible and require appropriate follow-up with cytological controls and colposcopy. Cytology allows to suspect the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV)cervical cancer, which is the main cause of cervical cancer, also in young women. The HPV vaccine cervical cancer prevention is recommended for girls from the age of 12 and women up to the age of 26 (if they have not been vaccinated or completed the recommended doses).
The diagnosis of suspicion of cytology must be completed with:
Biopsy and anatomo-pathological report (microscopic study of the affected tissue), which definitively rules it out or confirms it and, in the latter case, makes it possible to design the treatment guidelines to be followed.
It is rare and is detected by the appearance of lesions on the vulva. Diagnosis is confirmed by:
- Biopsy with anatomical-pathological study
It usually appears in peri- or post-menopausal women and develops in the mucosa lining the inner wall of the uterus (endometrium). It is characterised by the appearance of atypical uterine bleeding and vaginal secretions. Detection is based on:
- Transvaginal ultrasound
- Endometrial biopsy with anatomo-pathological study (performed by hysteroscopy or aspiration or micro-bleeding of the uterine cavity).
It occurs most frequently in postmenopausal women, but also in younger women. Early detection is difficult due to the late onset of symptoms and the lack of effective tests. It is characterised by the appearance of tumours that are not always palpable and is diagnosed by:
- Transvaginal ultrasound
- Tumour markers
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Biopsy (by transabdominal puncture, laparoscopy or laparotomy) with anatomo-pathological study.
It is the most common cancer in women and the leading cause of death among 50-65 year olds (the lifetime probability of developing breast cancer is between 5 and 10 %, assuming a life expectancy of 75 years).
Diagnosis is based on:
- Detection of breast lumps or enlarged nodes (subclavicular or axillary) through self-examination.
- Skin lesions or nipple discharge.
- Mammography or breast ultrasound (ultrasound).
- Radiography is highly effective in diagnosing lesions at a preclinical stage, i.e. tumours that are not palpable or unidentifiable in a clinical examination.
- Magnetic resonance imaging.
- FNA, fine needle puncture/aspiration performed on lumps or nodules for cytological study of the aspirate.
- Core Needle Biopsy (CNB)