Common types of cancer found in women

A cancer diagnosis is usually linked to family history, lifestyle choices, or something within the environment. And while you can’t control your case history or your whole environment, healthy lifestyle habits like a decent diet, regular physical activity, weight control, and quitting smoking (if you’re liable to lighting up) are all within your control.


According to statistics from the National Cancer Registry (NCR) 2017, the highest five cancers affecting women in SA include breast, cervical, colorectal, uterine and carcinoma.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can occur in women and infrequently in men (around 1 out of 100 cases of breast cancer occur in men). The symptoms include a lump within the breast, bloody discharge from the nipple and changes within the shape or texture of the nipple or breast. Treatment depends on the stage of cancer. It usually includes chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.



  • A lump within the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • Thickening or swelling of a part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin within the nipple area or the breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain within the nipple area.

Cervical Cancer

A malignant tumour of the lowermost part of the uterus (womb) could be prevented by pap smear screening and an HPV vaccine. There are usually no symptoms, however, in a few cases, there is irregular bleeding or pain. Treatments include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.



  • Blood spots or light bleeding between or following periods.
  • Menstrual bleeding that’s longer and heavier than usual.
  • Bleeding after intercourse, douching, or a pelvic examination.
  • Increased discharge.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.
  • Bleeding after menopause.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common non-skin malignancy in women, after breast and cervical cancer. Colorectal cancer is extremely curable when diagnosed at an early stage.



  • Change in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation, or stool consistency).
  • Rectal bleeding or blood within the stool.
  • Abdominal pain, cramping, bloating or discomfort.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Unexplained anaemia (iron deficiency).

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer is the commonest cancer occurring within a woman’s genital system. Uterine cancer begins when healthy cells within the uterus change and grow out of control, forming a mass called a tumour. The tumour will either be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumour is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumour can grow but generally won’t spread to other body parts.



  • Vaginal bleeding between periods in women before menopause.
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting in postmenopausal women.
  • Lower abdominal pain or cramping within the pelvis, slightly below the belly.
  • Thin white or clear emission in postmenopausal women.

Lung cancer

Women are more likely than men to develop lung cancers that are unrelated to smoking. Everyone shares identical risk factors for developing it, no matter what sex they are.



  • Shortness of breath.
  • Hoarseness.
  • A persistent, worsening cough or wheezing.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Chest pain.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Fatigue.


It is recommended you speak to your doctor about your own risk factors supported by your medical case history and lifestyle. Knowing what you’re up against can facilitate you devising a concept for what screenings you’ll get (and when), what dietary changes may help you gain an advantage, and more — all personalized just for you.

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