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Cancer Awareness: What Cancers Mainly Occur in Women?

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Breast Cancer

While men can develop breast cancer, it occurs more frequently in women. In 2011, an estimated 230,480 women will develop breast cancer, compared to 2,140 men, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The main two types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma, which starts in the ducts of the breast, and lobular carcinoma, which starts in the area of the breast that produces milk.

In early breast cancer, patients usually do not have symptoms. MedlinePlus noted that as the cancer gets larger, symptoms such as a breast lump, fluid from the nipple, or change of the breast or nipple can develop.

In advanced breast cancer, patients can experience weight loss, skin ulcers, bone pain, swelling of the arm next to the affected breast, and breast discomfort.

Endometrial Cancer

In the United States, an estimated 46,470 women will develop endometrial cancer in 2011, stated the National Cancer Institute. A common type of uterine cancer, endometrial cancer starts in the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus. MedlinePlus noted that the majority of endometrial cancer cases begin between ages 60 and 70.

Patients with endometrial cancer who have not gone through menopause can have bleeding between their normal periods, while patients who have gone through menopause can have vaginal bleeding or spotting, and may also have thin clear or white vaginal discharge. Endometrial cancer may cause pelvic cramping or lower abdominal pain.

Ovarian Cancer

An estimated 21,990 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011, according to the National Cancer Institute. MedlinePlus added that it is the fifth most common cancer in women.

While the symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague, women should seek medical attention if they have pelvic pain, feel full quickly or bloating daily for several weeks.

Cervical Cancer

The National Cancer Institute noted that in 2011, about 12,710 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. While cervical cancer is less common in the United States because of routine Pap smears, MedlinePlus stated that it is the third most common cancer among women worldwide.

While most patients do not have symptoms with early cervical cancer, possible symptoms that may occur include heavier periods, bleeding after menopause, continuous vaginal discharge, and abnormal vaginal bleeding that may occur after intercourse or between periods.

Vulvar Cancer and Vaginal Cancer

Vulvar cancer, which affects the opening of the vagina, the clitoris and vaginal lips, will be diagnosed in an estimated 4,340 women in 2011, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 2,570 women will be affected by vaginal cancer in 2011, noted the National Cancer Institute.

With vulvar cancer, women can have itching around their vaginas for years, as well as skin changes, such as freckles, ulcers and skin thickenings. Vaginal cancer is more common among women in their 60s and usually does not cause symptoms in its early stage, though some women may have pelvic pain, a vaginal lump or vaginal bleeding other than their period.


National Cancer Institute. Breast Cancer Home Page. Web. 28 September 2011

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Breast Cancer. Web. 28 September 2011

National Cancer Institute. Endometrial Cancer Home Page. Web. 28 September 2011

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Endometrial Cancer. Web. 28 September 2011

National Cancer Institute. Ovarian Cancer Home Page. Web. 28 September 2011

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Ovarian Cancer. Web. 28 September 2011

National Cancer Institute. Cervical Cancer Home Page. Web. 28 September 2011

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Cervical Cancer. Web. 28 September 2011

National Cancer Institute. Vulvar Cancer Home Page. Web. 28 September 2011

National Cancer Institute. Vaginal Cancer Home Page. Web. 28 September 2011

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Cancer – Vulva. Web. 28 September 2011

MedlinePlus. Vaginal Cancer. Web. 28 September 2011

Reviewed September 29, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.