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Women’s Health

Women’s Health

Cervical cancer  

Cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that can be largely prevented through screening (pap tests). Having regular Pap tests is the best way women can protect themselves against cervical cancer – regular Pap tests can prevent around 90% of cervical cancers.

Almost all cases of cervical cancers are caused by HPV; persistent HPV infection is the biggest risk factor for cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine Gardasil protects against the two high-risk HPV types (types 16 and 18) that cause around 70% of cervical cancers, and some other less common cancers in women and men.

The early stages of cervical cancer often have no symptoms. The only way to know if there are abnormal cells in the cervix, which may develop into cervical cancer, is to have a Pap test.

At our practice we have a computer recall system that the nurse’s use to follow up with patients and remind them when their next check is due.

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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a disease where some of the cells in one or both ovaries start to grow abnormally and develop into cancer.

Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer and the sixth most common cause of cancer death affecting women in Australia.

There are three types of ovarian cancer: the common epithelial type (90% of cases) that arises from the cells on the outside of the ovary; the germ cell type that arises from the cells which produce eggs; and the rare stromal type arising from supporting tissues within the ovary.

The cause of ovarian cancer is not known, however risk factors include:

  • ageing (risk increases for women over 50)
  • family history
  • Changes in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2.
  • being of Northern European or Northern or Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • early onset of periods (before 12 years) and late menopause
  • childlessness
  • infertility
  • first child after 30
  • never taking oral contraceptives
  • Using oestrogen only hormone replacement therapy or fertility treatment.

There are no proven screening tests, although ultrasound through the vagina and a blood test, CA125, are being investigated.

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Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs when the cells lining the breast lobules or ducts grow abnormally and out of control. A tumour can form in the ducts or lobules of the breast.

When the cells that look like breast cancer are still confined to the ducts or lobules of the breast, it is called pre-invasive breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Australian women, representing 28% of all cancers in women. About 14,000 women are diagnosed each year.


Some of the risk factors are being a woman, increasing age, having a strong family history of breast cancer, having a breast condition such as a personal history of breast cancer, DCIS or LCIS

A number of hormonal factors, child-bearing history, personal and lifestyle factors.

Signs to look for include:

  • a lump, lumpiness or thickening
  • changes to the nipple, such as a change in shape, crusting, a sore or an ulcer, redness, unusual discharge, or a nipple that turns in (inverted) when it used to stick out
  • changes to the skin of the breast, such as dimpling of the skin, unusual redness or other colour changes
  • an increase or decrease in the size of the breast
  • a change to the shape of the breast
  • swelling or discomfort in the armpit
  • Persistent, unusual pain that is not related to your normal monthly menstrual cycle, remains after a period and occurs in one breast only.

Breast cancer is diagnosed by a clinical breast examination, imaging tests – which may include a mammogram or ultrasound and taking a sample of tissue (biopsy) from the breast for examination under a microscope.

It is important to have mammograms every 2 years when aged over 40 and to regularly examine breasts after each period and to report any persisting changes to your Doctor.

For more information visit the National breast cancer foundation



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