Cancer and infertility
Infertility occurs in about one in eight Australian couples.
Cancer occurs in approximately one in three Australian women. The most common cancers in Australian women are cancer of the breast (lifetime risk 1 in 14 women); bowel (1 in 25 women); lung (1 in 53); ovary (1 in 94) and pancreas (1 in 159).
Of the cancers of the sex organs, breast cancer is most common, occurring in 1 in 14 Australian women. The cause, or aetiology of breast cancer is unknown. Various factors or diseases make breast cancer more likely. Breast cancer in a mother or sister increases the risk, as does a non-cancerous or benign breast lump of some types.
Breast cancer is more common in infertile women. Some medical research suggests that cigarette smokers are at increased risk.
Monthly breast self-examination is recommended in all women. All lumps should be investigated immediately. Most breast lumps are benign. There is no screening method for breast cancer, although mammography detects small cancers.
Ovarian cancer occurs in about 1 in 90 women. Its aetiology is also unknown.
Ovarian cancer may also occur in families in 10-15% of cases.
Ovarian cancer has been reported to be more common in women who drink milk every day.
Ovarian cancer is also suggested to be more common if a woman uses talcum powder on her vulva for personal hygiene.
Ovarian cancer is also more common in infertile women.
Oral contraceptive pills decrease the risk of cancer of the ovaries. This remarkable advantage of “The Pill” occurs, not only while the women takes “The Pill”, but also for at least five years after stopping the pill, there is no screening method for ovarian cancer. Every woman is advised to have a gynaecological examination and “Pap Smear” every two years to minimise the risk of ovarian, uterine and cervical cancers.
The lifetime risk of cervical cancer is 1 in 95 women.
Cervical cancer can be screened by cervical cytology, by the Papanicolaou or pap smear. The aetiology of cervical cancer is related to sexual activity. For this reason, every woman having sexual intercourse should have a pap smear every 2 years. An increased number of sexual partners and a papilloma or wart virus infection also increase the general risk of development of cervical cancer.
A pap smear every 2 years, as well as regular gynaecological and breast examinations, are currently the best methods to prevent or detect women’s cancers.