According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 80% of women face health risks associated with diet and the environment. While breast cancer is the most prevalent among women above the age of 20, cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer. Poor hygiene and unsafe sex are also cited by WHO as two big reasons behind mortality in women.
Causes: Obesity and delayed age of child birth, among others. "Less than 2% of breast cancer is hereditary. However, in case a first degree relative had breast cancer, women should start screening five years before the usual age of examination," says Dr Purvish M Parikh, oncologist, Medico.in.
Prevention: Doctors say that regular exercise, even if that means a 15-minute brisk walk, is a must to fight obesity that lead to this cancer. Regular breast self-examination is also must for early detection. "Self-examination of the breast should be done every month from the age of 20 years. After 40 years of age, women should go for a yearly mammography and sonography of the breast," says Dr Parikh.
The right diet: Low fat food, plenty of green leafy vegetables and fruits are best to stay fit.
Causes: Infection by a type of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the biggest cause for cervical cancer, followed by smoking. Sex at an early age, multiple sexual partners and having a partner who has had many sex partners increases the risk of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer, however, is one of the most preventable types of cancer, say doctors.
Prevention: Take regular pap smear tests to detect cervical changes before they turn into cancer. "Limit the number of sexual partners. Avoid smoking as smoking combined with an HPV infection can accelerate cervical cancer. Follow up on abnormal pap smears. Take the HPV vaccine that requires a series of three injections over a six-month period," suggests Dr Neema Sharma, gynaec and cancer surgeon, Fortis Vasant Kunj.
The right diet: Experts believe that a diet high in antioxidants, carotenoids, flavonoids, and folate found in fruits and vegetables can help fight infection. Apples, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, lettuce and beans work well.
Causes: Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a lifestyle disorder in which there is an imbalance of female sex hormones due to which the eggs do not mature and are not released from the ovaries. Instead, they form tiny cysts. This may result in weight gain, acne, fertility issues and breast cancer.
Prevention: Doctors say that weight loss is the most effective method of restoring normal ovulation/menstruation. Intake of low-fat food also helps keep hormone levels in control. "A low-carb, low-fat diet and sustained regular exercise may help in weight loss," suggests Dr Anup Dhir, senior consultant, Apollo Hospital.
The right diet: Experts recommend a low glycemic index (GI) diet in which a significant part of carbohydrates are obtained from fruits, veggies and whole grain sources. UTI
Causes: Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are more common in women than men as the female urethra (tube which carries the urine out of the bladder) is closer to the anus, hence organisms can find their way more easily to the urinary bladder and cause infection. UTIs may result in increased frequency of urination, burning and pain during urination, accompanied by fever with chills.
Prevention: Maintaining good hygiene is imperative to prevent UTI, say doctors. "Couples must be counselled to wash after intercourse and avoid urinating before intercourse," says Dr Nikita Trehan, gynaecologist and laparoscopic surgeon, Sunrise Hospitals. "Post menopausal women may need local oestrogen, in case they have frequent UTIs. UTIs should be treated promptly and correctly as the failure to do so may cost the person their Kidney," adds Dr Trehan.
The right diet: From plain water to juices, drink plenty of fluids. Also, doctors say that in women who get recurrent UTIs, cranberry juice has shown to be effective.
Causes: Primarily a psychological disorder involving an intense fear of gaining weight. Anorexia nervosa is a complex eating disorder characterised by drastic diets and fasting, or through forced vomiting and using laxatives. Extreme anorexia can lead to heart and stomach problems and kidney failure.
Prevention: “The food and weight-related issues are symptoms of something deeper, like depression, loneliness, insecurity, pressure to be perfect. These patients need to see a psychiatrist,” says Dr Anup Dhir, senior consultant at Apollo Hospital.
The right diet: A normal diet along with zinc, omega 3 fatty acids and micronutrients. In fact, at least for the initial period, One can have everything to one’s heart’s content. One doesn’t need to bother about gaining weight, because that is the idea!