Since early detection saves lives, here are the warning signs of the top five types of cancer that affect men and women in South Africa…

While no one wants to look for cancer, early detection and treatment can be lifesaving. This is why it’s so important to know the warning signs and symptoms of cancer and how to get checked.

Top 5 cancers affecting women in South Africa:

  1. Breast cancer (1 in 27)

Breast cancer refers to a malignant tumour in the breast.

Symptoms:

  • Puckering of the skin of the breast
  • A lump in the breast or armpit
  • A change in the skin around the nipple or nipple discharge
  • A change in the size of one breast or recent asymmetry of the breasts
  • An enlargement of the glands in the armpit, arm or neck
  • Dimpling of the nipple or nipple retraction
  • An unusual swelling in the armpit

Screening/tests:

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  • Monthly breast self-examinations.
  • Women aged 40 to 54 should go for a mammogram every year.
  • Mammogram every two years for women 55 years and older.
  1. Cervical cancer (1 in 42)

Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix.

Symptoms:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods
  • Continuous vaginal discharge
  • Menstrual periods becoming heavier and lasting longer than usual
  • Vaginal bleeding or pain during sexual intercourse
  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause

Screening/tests:

Women should begin having Pap smears when they become sexually active or turn 21, and regularly thereafter on the advice of their healthcare worker.

  1. Colorectal cancer (1 in 134)

Cancer of the colon or the rectum.

Symptoms:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • A feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Stomach pain
  • Weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss

Screening/tests:

  • Regular colon screening tests such as a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy from age 50 – every 10 years.
  • Tests for blood in the stool.
  1. Uterine cancer (1 in 195)

Malignant cells form in the tissues of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus.

Symptoms:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Pain in pelvis or abdomen especially when passing urine or having sex

Screening/tests:

  • Endometrial biopsy.
  • Transvaginal ultrasound.
  1. Lung cancer (1 in 205)

Cancer grows in one or both lungs.

Symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constant chest pain
  • Frequent chest infections
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Unexplained loss of appetite or weight
  • Bone pain

Screening/tests:

  • Examining the lungs with a fibre optic telescope.
  • Sampling sputum.
  • A CT scan.
  • If you have symptoms or are older than 50 and have a history of smoking or have chronic obstructive airway disease (COPD), talk to your doctor about screening.

6 Surprising ways to prevent cancer

Top 5 cancers affecting men in South Africa:

  1. Prostate cancer (1 in 19)

Cancer of the prostate gland, which is located just below a man’s bladder and surrounds the top portion of the tube that drains urine from the bladder (urethra).

Symptoms:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Straining to pass urine
  • Painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
  • Leaking urine
  • Bloody urine or semen
  • Advanced cancer can cause deep pain in lower back, hips, or upper thighs

Screening/tests:

  • The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test is a blood test to help detect prostate abnormalities.
  • The PSA test is often combined with a digital rectal exam.
  • Talk to a doctor about screening by age 50, or sooner if you have a family history.
  1. Colorectal cancer (1 in 75)

Cancer of the colon or the rectum.

Symptoms:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • A feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Stomach pain
  • Weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss

Screening/tests:

  • Regular colon screening tests such as a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy from age 50 – every 10 years.
  • Tests for blood in the stool.
  1. Lung cancer (1 in 80)

Cancer grows in one or both lungs.

Symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constant chest pain
  • Frequent chest infections
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Unexplained loss of appetite or weight
  • Bone pain

Screening/tests:

  • Examining the lungs with a fibre optic
  • Sampling sputum.
  • A CT scan.
  • If you have symptoms or are older than 50 and have a history of smoking or have chronic obstructive airway disease (COPD), talk to your doctor about screening.
  1. Kaposi sarcoma (1 in 320)

Cancer that causes patches of abnormal tissue to grow under the skin, in the lining of the mouth, nose and throat or in other organs. It is commonly associated with HIV/AIDS.

Symptoms:

  • Skin lesions
  • A raised or flat area on the skin
  • Swelling in the arms, legs and elsewhere due to damage to lymph vessels
  • Lung, stomach and bowel problems
  • Anaemia

Screening/tests:

A biopsy to take a small sample of tissue from the lesion for analysis.

  1. Bladder cancer (1 in 152)

A tumour develops in the bladder lining and may spread into the bladder muscle.

Symptoms:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Needing to urinate frequently
  • Burning pain when urinating

Screening/tests:

Tests may include cystoscopy, biopsy, laboratory and imaging tests.

Catch cancer early

Remember, early detection and treatment saves lives. If you are in any doubt about your symptoms, visit your doctor or clinic for a check-up.  

Sources: 1Life and CANSA: Men’s health and Women’s health

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.