Sexual Health/Cancer

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Cancer is a disease that can affect many different parts of the body, but some of the places that are most notably at risk for it are the pubic areas. It is for this reason that these areas should be checked frequently. Doctors who deal specifically with cancer treatment are known as oncologists.

Breast Cancer[edit | edit source]

Breast cancer is a common and devastating cancer that is found predominantly in women, but that can also be occasionally found in men. Sometimes, if breast cancer isn't responsive to normal treatments, the breast may need to be surgically removed in an operation called a mastectomy. Mastectomies are radical surgeries that can have prolonged mental and emotional effects for the patient. Women are encouraged to check themselves for breast cancer on a regular basis.

Breast cancer, like most other cancers, is easier to treat medically if detected early. Women should be screened for breast cancer regularly, and they should examine themselves for changes or irregularities frequently.

The pink ribbon, and the color pink in general have been adopted as symbols of support for breast cancer. October is national breast cancer awareness month in the United states. During this month, survivors of breast cancer, as well as friends and family of both survivors and victims frequently wear pink ribbons.

Breast self-examination[edit | edit source]

Women are encouraged to examine themselves for breast cancer on a regular basis. Breast self-examination(BSE) is not particularly reliable, but it can help to give valuable early warning. If you find anything abnormal during a breast self-examination, such as a lump, a sore area, or other abnormality, you should consult a doctor immediately.

Basic exam[edit | edit source]

Here are steps for a basic self-examination:

Some common indications of breast cancer.
  1. Stand in front of a mirror with top exposed.
  2. Place hands on hips.
  3. Look for signs of dimpling, swelling, soreness or redness in all parts of your breasts in the mirror.
  4. Repeat step 3 with arms raised above your head.
  5. While still standing, palpate your breasts with your fingers, feeling for lumps. Try to use a larger area of your fingers rather than prodding. Feel both for the area just beneath the skin and for the tissue deeper within.
  6. Go over the entire breast while examining - a useful method is to divide the breast into quadrants and go through each quadrant carefully. Also examine the "axillary tail" of each breast that points towards the armpit.
  7. Repeat palpation while lying down.
  8. Check the nipples and the area just beneath them. Gently squeeze each nipple to check for any abnormal discharge.

Seven P's[edit | edit source]

A similar method of self-examination is known as the Seven P's of BSE:

  1. Position: Inspect breasts visually and palpate in the mirror with arms at various positions. Then perform the examination lying down, first with a pillow under one shoulder, then with a pillow under the other shoulder, and finally lying flat.
  2. Perimeter: Remember to examine the entire breast, including the nipple, the axillary tail that extends into the armpit, and nearby lymph nodes.
  3. Palpation: Palpate with the pads of the fingers, without lifting the fingers as they move across the breast.
  4. Pressure: First palpate with light pressure, then palpate with moderate pressure, and finally palpate with firm pressure.
  5. Pattern: There are several examination patterns, and each woman should choose the one which is most comfortable for her. The vertical strip pattern involves moving the fingers up and down over the breast, the pie-wedge pattern involves starting at the nipple and moving outward, and the circular pattern involves moving the fingers in concentric circles from the nipple outward. Don't forget to palpate up into the armpit.
  6. Practice: Practice the breast self-exam, and become familiar with the feel of the breast tissue, so you can recognize changes. A health care practitioner can provide feedback on your method.
  7. Plan: Know what to do if you suspect a change in your breast tissue. Know your family history of breast cancer. Have mammography done as often as your health care provider recommends.

For pre-menopausal women, BSE is best done at the same stage of their period every month to minimize changes due to the menstrual cycle - the recommended time is just following the end of the last period when the breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. Older, menopausal women should do BSE once a month, perhaps on the first or last day of every month.

About eight in ten lumps discovered on BSE are harmless. Nevertheless, any abnormality thus detected should immediately be reported to a doctor. Though most breast cancers are detected by women, BSE should be combined with an annual examination by a doctor for better chances of detection. Women can easily miss a breast lump that an expert can find. For the same reasons it is better to learn BSE from an expert. It is not a replacement for more trustworthy techniques like mammography.

Note: consult a trustworthy site such as Johns Hopkins Breast Cancer Center for more complete and up-to-date information.

Mammogram[edit | edit source]

A mammogram is a medical imaging procedure, where the insides of the breasts are photographed, and breast cancer can be identified. It is important that women have regular mammograms, especially older women.

Cervical cancer[edit | edit source]

Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix, and occurs only in women. Studies suggest that cervical cancer could be caused by an infection of HPV. For this reason, women who have HPV should be screened for cervical cancer regularly. Women who do not have HPV should also be screened as prescribed by a doctor. One of the more radical treatments for cervical cancer is a hysterectomy, which is a surgical removal of the uterus and the cervix. After a hysterectomy, a woman no longer menstruates, and is not able to conceive children.

Ovarian cancer[edit | edit source]

Ovarian cancer is cancer of the ovaries, and affects only women. Women should be screened for ovarian cancer regularly.

Prostate cancer[edit | edit source]

Prostate cancer is a cancer of the prostate gland, and only affects males. Beginning at age forty me should be screened for prostate cancer regularly. Treatment of prostate cancer can include surgical removal of the prostate, which has been known to cause problems with urination, erection, and ejaculation.

Testicular cancer[edit | edit source]

Testicular cancer is a cancer of the testicles, and only affects men. Men should be screened for testicular cancer regularly, and should examine themselves for testicular cancer frequently. Early detection, like all cancers, is key to treating and beating testicular cancer. If testicular cancer progresses far enough, one or both testicles may need to be surgically removed.

Testicular self-examination[edit | edit source]

Men can test themselves for testicular cancer, by feeling the testicles and the scrotum for changes, such as lumps, soft spots, and sacs of liquid in the scrotum. The self-test is unreliable, but can help to give some valuable early warning. If you find anything abnormal in your self test, you should consult a doctor immediately.

Men from puberty onwards should examine their testes after a hot shower or bath, when the scrotum is looser. They should first examine each testicle separately, taking the testicle between the thumb and the forefinger, feeling for lumps, and then compare them to see whether one is larger than the other. By doing this each month, males will become familiar with what is normal for them.

Men should have an examination by a doctor if they notice any of the following:

  • a lump in one testicle
  • pain or tenderness
  • blood in sperm during ejaculation (a small amount once is not necessarily cause for worry and rarely is caused by testicular cancer)
  • build-up of fluid in the scrotum
  • enlargement of abnormal breast tissue on the chest
  • a change in the size of one testicle or the relative sizes of the two (but it is normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other)