Common Cancer Facts That Women Need to Know About

Common Cancer Facts That Women Need to Know About

Did you know that the most common cancers that affect women are breast, colon, endometrial, ovarian, skin, cervical and lung cancer? By learning a little about these cancers you can know what actions you can take to possibly save your life or the life of someone you care about.

Breast Cancer

The most common cancer that women may have to face in their lifetime is breast cancer. This disease can strike at any age, but it most common among women 40 and older. There are certain risk factors that may dramatically increase your chances of getting breast cancer, such as a family history of breast cancer. All women should know about breast cancer and what they can do about it.

Steps You Can Take

The very best way to defend against breast cancer is to detect it as early as possible when it is much easier to treat. Early detection is the best weapon against breast cancer.

All women should have yearly mammograms starting at age 40.
All women should have a clinical breast exam at least once every 2 or 3 years for women in their 20’s and 30’s, and every year for women in their 40’s or older.
Women should report any changes in their breasts immediately to their doctor.
All women should perform a breast self-exam at least once per month starting in their 20’s.
Women who are at an elevated risk for breast cancer (women who have a family history of breast cancer, a genetic tendency, or have had past breast cancer) should learn about the benefits of starting cancer screenings earlier, or have additional tests such as a breast x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI. These women should talk with their doctors about these options.

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer can affect women as well as men. Any adult can get colorectal cancer. It is most common among people 50 years old and above. If you have a personal or family history of cancer, or have polyps in the colon or rectum, or inflammatory bowel disease, then you are more likely to have colon cancer. Other risk factors are a diet consisting of high-fat foods (especially foods from animal sources), being overweight, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Steps You Can Take

Almost all colon cancer starts as a polyp in the colon. If precancerous polyps are found and removed, then colon cancer has a great chance of being prevented. Regular testing can find polyps before they become cancerous, and possibly save lives.

Eat a low-fat diet with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables to help prevent colon cancer.
If you are 50 or older here are five recommendations about testing options.
Yearly fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) or fecal immunochemcial test (FIT) is recommended.
Every five years a flexible simoidoscopy is recommended.
Combine yearly FOBT and flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years is the preferred option.
Double contrast barium enema is recommended every 5 years.
Every 10 years a colonoscopy is recommended.
See your doctor and discuss these options and your risk for colon cancer.
Endometrial Cancer
Endometrial cancer is cancer of the lining of the uterus and it occurs most often in women who are 50 or older. Risk factors for this cancer are:

Estrogen therapy without also taking progesterone
Using Tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment or prevention
Early onset of menstrual periods or late menopause
A history of infertility or never having children
Obesity and diabetes
Personal or family history of hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer are more likely to get endometrial cancer.
Steps You Can Take
Signs and symptoms to watch for are unusual spotting or bleeding, not related to menstrual periods. Report these to you doctor immediately. At menopause, women should talk about endometrial cancer with their doctors. Pap tests are not reliable for detecting endometrial cancer, only cervical cancer. If you have risk factors for endometrial cancer, then yearly testing with an endometrial biopsy is recommended for women 35 or older.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is more likely to occur in women as they get older. Other risk factors are women who have never had children or have infertility, or women who had their first child after the age of 30; women who had late menopause (after the age of 50); women who use hormone replacement therapy for more than 10 years; women who have had breast cancer. Even if you do not have any of these risk factors, you can still get ovarian cancer.

Steps You Can Take

Unfortunately, unlike getting a mammography to detect breast cancer, there are no proven effective tests to detect ovarian cancer early. However, a pelvic exam should be a regular part of every woman’s health exam. Here are some other possible warning signs to discuss with your doctor: persistent swelling of the abdomen, persistent digestive problems (gas, bloating, losing your appetite), abdominal pain, pelvic pain, back pain, leg pain, feeling like you need to urinate all the time. If you have any of these symptoms, discuss them with your doctor.

Skin Cancer

If ever spend time in the sun, then you could be at risk for skin cancer – which means anyone could be at risk! Fair-skinned, blondes or red heads are more likely to get skin cancer than those with naturally darker skin and hair colors. Other skin cancer risk factors are having a close family member with a melanoma, and anyone who had a severe sunburn before the age of 18.

Steps You Can Take

Skin cancer is one of the few cancers that can (mostly) be prevented! Avoid being out in the midday sun for long periods of time. Wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and long-sleeved shirts. Sunscreen should be SPF 15 or higher and you should use it on all exposed skin areas. Don’t let your children get sunburned! Regularly examine your skin all over your body and have your skin examined during your regular health checkups.

Cervical Cancer

Women who have had sexual activity can get cervical cancer. Risk chances are dramatically increased in women who have HPV (human papilloma virus). HPV is passed on to women during sex. You increase your risk factors as you get older, and if you don’t have regular Pap tests, as well as if you smoke, have HIV or AIDS.

Steps You Can Take

Pap tests can find changes in the cervix which can be treated before they become cancerous. Also Pap tests can detect cervical cancer in its early stages, when it is more likely to be curable. All women should have regular cervical cancer tests after the age of 21 or within three years of beginning vaginal sex. Testing should be done every year (for the regular Pap test) or every two years (for the newer liquid-based Pap test). Starting at age 30, women with three normal Pap test results in a row can switch to testing every two or three years. Talk with your doctor about how often you should have the test performed. All women should take the newer HPV DNA test (talk to your doctor about it).

Lung Cancer

Smoking is the cause of over 80% of all lung cancers, but even people who don’t smoke can get lung cancer.

Steps You Can Take

Lung cancer, like skin cancer, can often be prevented! If you smoke – quit! If you don’t smoke – don’t start! Help and encourage others to quit smoking.

The Bottom Line About Cancer

Early detection is your best weapon against cancer. Visit with your doctor about your risk factors and what tests and screenings are recommended for you. Doing these things could save your life!

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