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What are some symptoms of gynaecologic cancers that women should not ignore?
Most gynaecological cancers present with abnormal vaginal bleeding such as intermenstrual bleeding, bleeding after sex, or postmenopausal bleeding. Keep a lookout for vaginal discharge that may range from pink, watery and bloody to thick, brown and foul-smelling. 
Additionally, symptoms can include pain in the lower abdomen, abdominal swelling or bloating. The uterus, cervix and ovaries are near the bladder and rectum, so cancers can also present with changes in bladder and bowel habits.
Other symptoms may include nausea, loss of appetite, loss of weight, fatigue, and feeling full soon after consuming a meal. 
Has Stage-4 metastatic breast cancer survival improved in recent years?  
Stage-4 metastatic breast cancer is not curable, but very treatable. Survival rates and quality of life of patients have greatly improved with the availability of new treatment options. The five-year survival of metastatic breast cancer is now about 25 per cent (in other words, 25 per cent of all metastatic breast cancer patients can live up to five years). It is important to check for molecular signatures on breast cancer cells, which can help guide targeted therapy options for treatment. 
My longest survivor is well eight years on; she has had two targeted therapy and chemotherapy journeys. There are also patients whose conditions are also very well controlled around three to four years on targeted hormonal therapy.
Is it true that a high consumption of soy leads to an increased risk for breast cancer?
No. Soy contains isoflavones, a plant-based chemical similar only in structure to oestrogen. High levels of human oestrogen have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, but studies have shown that eating a moderate amount of soy food (one to two servings a day) does not increase the risk of breast cancer. 
Ovarian and endometrial cancers are often associated with obesity, or instances when the body has experienced more hormonal exposure. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
If women in my family have no history of gynaecological cancers, does it mean I am not at risk?
No. Besides family history which may suggest an inherited cause of cancer, many other factors can cause gynaecological cancers. Up to 99 per cent of cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus virus (HPV).
At the same time, ovarian and endometrial cancers are often associated with obesity, or instances when the body has experienced more hormonal exposure (have few or no children, early menstruation or late menopause, irregular ovulation patterns in conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, some hormone replacement therapy).
Why are sexually active women more at risk for cervical cancer?
Up to 99 per cent of cervical cancer is caused by HPV, a sexually transmitted infection. Sexual activity exposes an individual to it, and this risk is further increased if a woman has multiple sexual partners, or partners who have other partners.
Women who have had unprotected sexual intercourse at an early age are also at risk because cervix changes due to infection during this time are more vulnerable to damage. 
Does menopause affect a woman’s cancer risk? 
The risk of developing cancer increases with age. Menopause does not cause cancer, but because it occurs when women are older, there is an increased risk of developing cancer. Late menopause also suggests that the body has been exposed to more oestrogen, which can increase the risk of breast, ovarian and uterus cancer. 
Look out for the next instalment of this series on 15 Apr 2021, where our doctor will answer questions relating to blood cancers. Submit your question by clicking on the ad above or here, and it could be featured.