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Women and Cancer

Cancer affects women in all walks of life and doesn’t discriminate by age. One in three women will develop some type of cancer in her lifetime. Even for cancers typically diagnosed in later years, like lung cancer, prevention and screening begins early.

There Are More Cancer Types Than Breast Cancer

Breast cancer has the highest awareness rate of all cancers – and that’s a good thing. It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. However, many other forms of cancer are equally prevalent. The American Cancer Society estimates the leading sites of cancer in women are:

  1. Breast
  2. Lung & Bronchus
  3. Colon
  4. Uterine
  5. Thyroid
  6. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  7. Melanoma
  8. Pancreas
  9. Leukemia
  10. Kidney & renal pelvis

Reducing Your Risk

Lifestyle habits contribute to a woman’s future health, and jumpstarting good ones is extremely important. Most likely, you’re the chief healthcare officer for your family. However, it’s equally important to take care of yourself.

You can take control of your health and reduce your cancer risk by following some simple guidelines.

Commit to screening for breast cancer.
Screening and early detection is the single most effective way to combat breast cancer. When detected early, before it spreads, women have a 98 percent five-year survival rate. You should discuss your screening plan with your physician.

Consult our breast cancer sheet or the latest guidelines and more information.

Have a regular Pap test.;
You should be regularly screened for cervical cancer through an annual Pap test. Even if you have received a HPV vaccine, you should be screened for cervical cancer.

  • Starting at age 21, you should have a Pap test every three years.
  • In your 30s, through age 65, you should have a Pap test and a DNA HPV test every five years or only a Pap test every three years.
  • After age 65, discuss the need for cervical cancer screenings with your physician.

Go see your doctor – regularly! Establish a relationship with your doctor and make appointments for regular physical exams and regular screenings.

Avoid tobacco in all forms.
Lung cancer is responsible for the most cancer-related deaths in Texas and has one of the lowest survival rates. Only 17 percent of lung cancer patients live more than five years beyond their initial diagnosis. Cigarettes and secondhand smoke have been linked to 18 different forms of cancer. There is no safe tobacco product.

Take care of your skin.
Check your skin once a month for any changes in moles or other marks which could be signs of skin cancer. If you notice any changes to your skin, tell your doctor right away. When you go outside, avoid long exposure to your skin and wear sunscreen at all times, not just during the summer.

Check your colon.
Colon cancer is the second-leading cancer killer of men and women combined, and is among the most difficult to detect because it lacks symptoms in early stages. Starting at age 50, you should discuss the most appropriate screening test with your physician. If you have a higher risk, based on your family history, your doctor may recommend starting screening earlier.

  • Annual fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical tests (FIT).
  • Every three years – stool DNA test
  • Every five years – a flexible sigmoidoscopy, virtual colonoscopy or a double-contrast barium enema.
  • Every 10 years – a colonoscopy or every five years, a virtual colonoscopy.

Exercise regularly.
If you’re overweight, you have an increased risk of colon, kidney and esophageal cancer (not to mention other non-cancerous health issues). The American Cancer Society recommends women aim for 30 to 60 of moderate to vigorous exercise at least five times each week. A moderate level of physical activity will cause you to break a sweat and increase your heart rate yet still allow you to carry on a conversation.

Eat healthy.
Make sure your diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but limits your intake of red meat or high-fat foods. A high-fat diet and obesity raise your risk for numerous cancers (and many other health issues).

Limit alcohol consumption.
You should limit your alcohol intake to the equivalent of no more than one drink per day. The Centers for Disease Control has shown alcohol consumption increases your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast.

Avoid unsafe sexual practices.
Having multiple sexual partners or unprotected sex increases your risk. If you are 26 or younger, you should consider getting the HPV vaccine.