In addition to regular overall health screenings, it is important for women to take preventive steps and regularly screen for women’s cancers to ensure they are well-informed and protected.
A pap smear is a simple and effective procedure which has proven effectiveness in the early detection of cervical cancer, which ranks among the top 10 women’s cancers in Singapore. During a pap smear, your gynaecologist will gently scrape some cells from the cervical wall to examine for any abnormalities. This procedure should be conducted regularly every 3 years for sexually active women. A pap smear can be performed together with the HPV vaccination every 5 years.
With around 1850 new cases diagnosed every year, breast cancer is the top cancer among women in Singapore. While it is important for women to conduct regular breast self-examinations, a mammogram offers an effective screening solution for the early detection of breast cancer, greatly increasing cancer survival rates. A mammogram can detect malignant lumps which may not be felt during a breast self-examination. Women above 40 are advised to get a mammogram done annually.
Women may experience some vaginal changes after childbirth, such as dryness and laxity (or when you feel that the vagina is “loose”). This may be due to strain on the muscles during a vaginal delivery. Women who have had a difficult delivery or multiple deliveries are more susceptible to such changes in their vagina.
Some of the consequences of vaginal laxity and dryness include vulvar irritation and itchiness, vaginal soreness, pain during and after sex, urinary incontinence, and recurrent urinary infections. These symptoms are often ignored by women who may be embarrassed to seek help, and can affect one’s self-confidence, intimate relationships and quality of life. However, there is now a non-invasive way of improving vaginal laxity and dryness, as well as mild urinary incontinence caused by vaginal laxity – a process known as Vaginal Laser Rejuvenation.
Vaginal Rejuvenation – What is it?
Vaginal rejuvenation is a non-invasive laser treatment with no downtime that uses laser and radio frequency waves to stimulate the formation of collagen and restore connective tissue in the vagina, thereby treating the symptoms arising from vaginal dysfunction.
This increases elasticity, improves vaginal lubrication and increased sensation, thereby improving sexual satisfaction and reducing occurrence of urinary incontinence.
Gynaecological cancers refer to various cancers which develop in a woman’s reproductive organs. The most common types of gynaecological cancers are those which start in the cervix (neck of the womb), endometrium (lining of the uterus) and ovaries.
Symptoms & Diagnosis
Common symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal vaginal bleeding outside of your period, pain during sex, or abnormal vaginal discharge. However, as these symptoms are also often linked with other conditions, it is important to visit your gynaecologist for a thorough check on what these symptoms could mean.
A pap smear is an effective procedure to screen and detect abnormalities in the cervix (see above). A HPV vaccination before sexual contact can also prevent against certain strains of HPV infections that could lead to cervical cancer.
Endometrial Cancer / Womb Cancer
Abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially in post-menopausal women, is a common sign of endometrial cancer. It is more commonly diagnosed in women above 40 or post-menopausal women. Apart from age, other risk factors for endometrial cancer include obesity, not having children, menstrual history and family history.
While there is no specific screening test for endometrial cancer, women above 40 may go for a regular transvaginal ultrasound during their health screening to check for abnormalities in the reproductive organs. Endometrial cancer can be diagnosed via a biopsy of the uterus lining.
Ovarian cancer is the 5th most common women’s cancer in Singapore. It does not often present clear symptoms in the early stages and hence is difficult to accurately screen for and diagnose at an early stage. Ovarian cancer is often undetected until symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, or abnormal vaginal bleeding surface in the later stages.
Risk factors associated with ovarian cancer include age, infertility, family history of breast and ovarian cancer, endometriosis as well as genetic factors. While there is no specific screening test for ovarian cancer, women who are at an increased risk for ovarian cancer may be advised to undergo a CA125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound during their health screening.