Women's Cancer: What You Need to Know

25 January 2024

Discover the importance of women's health screenings, HPV vaccinations, and understanding survival rates for cancer in women. Stay informed for better outcomes.

Cancer is a serious illness that impacts millions of people globally. Women are particularly vulnerable, with a higher likelihood of developing certain types of cancer, including breast, uterus, cervix, and ovarian cancer.

Fortunately, the breakthroughs in modern medicine have made early detection and prevention of cancer possible through routine health screenings and vaccines.

Sunway Medical Centre oncologists, Dr Christina Lai and Dr Jennifer Leong, along with our Wellness Centre doctor, Dr Tong Wen Chee, discuss the importance of early cancer detection in women. They also explore the effectiveness of HPV vaccines in preventing certain types of cancer and debunk some of the taboo topics associated with cancer and women's health.

Most Common Cancers in Women

Most Common Cancers in Women

Breast, lung, and colorectal cancers are the most prevalent cancers in women. When discussing cancers that affect women exclusively, breast cancer is the most common, followed by cancers of the uterus, cervix, and ovaries.

The oncologists emphasise the importance of early detection and encourage women to undergo regular screenings to detect any problems early on.

The Importance of Women's Health Screenings

Many women believe that tumour marker tests are the most effective method of detecting cancer risk. However, according to medical professionals, this may not always be true.

Health screenings, including mammograms, ultrasounds, and chest X-rays, are more effective at detecting cancer at an early stage. Regular health screenings are particularly important for women who are at a higher risk of developing cancer, such as those with a family history of cancer or those who smoke.

Regular health screenings are also important for pregnant women, as cancer can develop during pregnancy. Health screenings, including mammograms and ultrasounds, can detect cancer at an early stage and ensure a healthy pregnancy. It is safe for pregnant women to have these screenings.

Why Should I Get the HPV Vaccine?

Another important aspect of preventing cancer in women is HPV vaccination. HPV or human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer in women.

The doctors explain that the HPV vaccine is highly effective in preventing HPV infection and reducing the risk of developing certain types of cancer. They encourage women to get vaccinated as early as possible, before they become sexually active and exposed to the virus.

Survival Rates Are Higher at Earlier Stages

Survival rates are a topic that can be difficult to discuss, but the doctors stress the importance of understanding how survival rates are affected by the stage at which cancer is detected.

For example, if cancer is detected at stage one or two, the five-year survival rate is around 90%. In other words, 9 out of 10 women will still be alive and healthy without any cancer recurrence after five years.

However, if cancer is detected at stage three or four, the five-year survival rate drops significantly. That's why the survival rate is highly associated with the stage of cancer, meaning that the earlier the cancer is detected, the better the chance of survival.

Breaking the Taboo Around Cancer and Sexuality

It is a common misconception among cancer patients that they cannot engage in sexual activity during their treatment due to concerns that the radiation they receive will affect their partner.

It is nothing wrong for a cancer patient to enjoy sexual intimacy with their partner. However, it is important to note that cancer patients should not hesitate to ask for proper information from their doctor.

According to oncologists, there are several situations that may affect a woman's sexual life. For instance, patients undergoing pelvic radiotherapy may experience soreness around the muscle area and vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable. However, if you experience any discomfort or have concerns about your intimate life during cancer treatment, it is vital to have an open discussion with a doctor.


In conclusion, women's health screening is crucial for detecting cancer early and ensuring a better prognosis. While tumour marker tests are commonly used, they are not always the most effective method of detection. Doctors should help you determine which health screening method is best for your situation.

Cancer patients face difficult decisions and should be open to discussing taboo topics with their doctors to ensure their emotional and psychological well-being. With regular screening and open communication with doctors, cancer patients can improve their chances of successful treatment and a better quality of life.