The following information pertains to female cancers, namely cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease, and is estimated that most cervical cancers can be prevented with regular pap smears. Current screening recommendations include 1) women over age 21 should begin regular pap smears and 2) women over 30 should be tested for HPV. The HPV virus causes about 98% of all cervical cancers.
The HPV Vaccine
Gardasil is the most common vaccine used for the prevention of the HPV virus in both men and women. It is recommended that both males and females receive the vaccine starting at age 11 or 12, with a booster 6-12 months later. It is recommended that children receive the vaccine before they become sexually active, but catch-up vaccinations can still be received between the ages of 13-25.
It is not recommended for women over the age of 25 to receive the vaccination as they have likely already been exposed.
- Gardasil has been shown to be 98% effective in preventing cervical lesions associated with HPV.
- The vaccine is predicted to provide lifelong immunity in the majority of women.
- A large scientific review estimated that among unvaccinated women, about 164 out of 10,000 will develop a precancerous lesion associated with HPV, compared to only 2 out of 10,000 vaccinated women. (Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2018;9:5)
What are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Talk to your family doctor or other specialist if you have any of the following new symptoms that persist for at least 3 weeks: abnormal vaginal bleeding, heavy discharge, pain with intercourse, pain with urination or pelvic pain.
Complementary Care for Cervical Cancer
Fortunately, there are numerous natural compounds that have been studied that show success with reversing cervical lesions from a precancerous state back to a healthy state. Additionally, if women do have to receive chemotherapy or radiation, there are supportive treatments that can maintain quality of life.
- Fruits and vegetables – women who eat a diet with higher fruits, vegetables, and fibre, which provides a high vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid content, have a 40-60% reduced chance of their precancerous lesion progressing to cervical cancer.
- Agaricus – this white button mushroom that can be found in grocery stores has been found to keep your white blood cell counts high during chemotherapy.
- Acupuncture – this safe traditional treatment can reduce the side effects of radiation for cervical cancer, such as inflammation in the rectum.
Risk factors for the development of endometrial, or uterine, cancer include a history of estrogen replacement therapy use without the use of progesterone, history of tamoxifen use, Lynch syndrome, family history and obesity.
If you are at higher risk for the development of uterine cancer, there are protective lifestyle factors for the prevention of cancer:
- Increased age at last birth – women who have babies between the ages of 35-39 have a decreased risk for endometrial cancer.
- Regular exercise can decrease your risk by 20% compared to those who don’t exercise.
- Green tea – women who drink 2 cups of green tea per day have a 25% decreased risk of endometrial/uterine cancer.
- In obese women only, 2 aspirin per week was associated with a 28% decreased risk of cancer.
What are the Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer
The most common presenting symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially among post-menopausal women. Other symptoms include a sense of pressure, heaviness, or abdominal pain.
Complementary Care for Endometrial Cancer
Conventional treatment for endometrial cancer usually includes intense surgeries, and often chemotherapy. There are many side effects, but many can be managed with supportive therapies.
- Acupuncture – this is an extremely effective treatment for post-surgical pain.
- Berberine – this natural blood lowering agent is as effective as metformin, and has been shown to decrease markers associated with cancer cell growth.
- Vitamin D – endometrial cancer cells have vitamin D receptors, and vitamin D has been shown to have anti-tumour properties in numerous studies.
The most discussed risk factors for the development of ovarian cancer are history of hormone replacement therapy, pelvic inflammatory disease, family history and BRCA gene carriers. If you have a significant family history of ovarian or breast cancer, you may be a candidate for gene testing.
What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Early clinical presentation of ovarian cancer may include a palpable abdominal mass, bloating, feeling full easily after eating, abdominal or pelvic pain, or changes in urination such as urgency. Talk to a doctor if you experience any of these changes and they persist for longer than 3 weeks.
Complementary Care for Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is usually an aggressive disease requiring aggressive treatment, and therefore treatment may be long. This means that recovery is often long too. With the help of some complementary treatments, your quality of life can be maintained and your risk of recurrence decreased.
- Diet – a large study of 811 women found that women with the highest intakes of fibre, green leafy vegetables and fish had the lowest rates of ovarian cancer.
- Hormone testing – faulty estrogen metabolism is a recognized contributor to ovarian cancer development. The DUTCH test measures specific estrogen metabolites, and if one such metabolite is found to be high, we can optimize estrogen detoxification.
- L-glutamine – several clinical trials have shown that L-glutamine can be safely taken during chemotherapy to reduce the severity of muscle wasting and nerve toxicity that can occur as a side effect.
The above information is just a very small amount of the published research for supportive care and recurrence prevention for gynaecological cancer. Call my clinic today at 403-984-3538 to get a comprehensive treatment plan.