Though there is no definite way of avoiding cancer, understanding the risk factors can aid you to make decisions about screening and prevention for timely signs of disease. As Recognized by National Women’s Health Week, here are the five most common cancers in women and steps which you can take to find these diseases early;
Approximately 246,000 new cases were diagnosed in the U.S. women in 2016.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer which women may face in their lifespan. It can occur at any age, but the risk goes high as you get older. Because of some factors, some women may have a more chance of having this cancer than others.
What you can do
The optimum defense is to find breast cancer at initial stage. When the cancer is small, has not spread, and is easier to treat. Finding breast cancer early is called “early detection.” The American Cancer Society mentions the following the early detection of breast cancer:
- Women ages 40 to 44 should start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms. But it depends upon their choice as if they wish to do so.
- Women age 45 to 54 should get the mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older should switch to get the mammograms every 2 years, or they can continue yearly screening. Screening should remain as long as a woman is in better health and is likely to live at least 10 to 12 more years.
- All women should be aware of the known aids, limitations, and potential harms related to the screening of breast cancer. Women should also know how their breasts look normally. They should feel and then report any changes to a healthcare provider immediately.
Some women at high risk for breast cancer; because of their genetic tendency, family history, or some other factors. They should be screened with MRIs along with mammograms. Usually, a very small number of women fall in this category.
Approximately 63,000 new cases were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2016.
The third most common cancer is colorectal cancer among all women. But among Hispanic women, it is the second most common cancer. Risk factors can include age (mostly diagnosed in women over 50), having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a history of tumors, a diet rich in red meat, or a family history of colorectal cancer.
Screening for colorectal cancer is very effective. If found at the initial stage, it is one of the most curable forms of cancer. Dana-Farber experts commend the following guidelines;
- Ages 18-39; Screening is not required unless you have inflammatory bowel diseases, a family history of the disease, or any hereditary syndrome like Lynch syndrome. Discuss with your doctor about the pros and cons of screening and whether it is right for you or not.
- Ages 40-49; Review your risks with the doctor. If you are at increased risk or you have had polyps in the past, you may need to start screening.
- Ages 50+; Everybody should be screened at this age. Screenings include a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and/or annual stool occult blood test. Discuss with your doctor about which test is accurate for you.
In case of a family history of colon cancer, particularly if the diagnoses arise at a young age and across some generations, you want to state with your doctor about genetic counseling and genetic testing.
Approximately 60,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. women in 2016.
Women with age 55 or above are most at risk for uterine or endometrial cancer. Other risk factors can include obesity, taking estrogen lacking progesterone, diabetes mellitus, taking tamoxifen for breast cancer, Lynch syndrome or having a family history of cancers.
To diagnose this cancer earlier, it is vital for women to look for the signs and other symptoms, which comprise difficult or painful urination, pelvic pain, bleeding or discharge not linked to menstruation, or pain during intercourse. If you are facing any of these symptoms, discuss with your doctor immediately.
In addition, women diagnosed with Lynch syndrome should discuss with their doctor about annual testing for uterine/endometrial cancer, like endometrial biopsies, by age 35.
Cervical cancer can distress any woman who is or has been active sexually. It usually happens in women who have had the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus passes during sex. Cervical cancer is also more expected in women who have poor nutrition, smoke, have AIDS or HIV, and who do not get regular Pap tests.
What you can do
A Pap test can find the changes in your cervix which can be treated before they develop cancer. This test is also very good at finding cervical cancer early when it can be cured. The American Cancer Society commends the following;
- Cervical cancer testing should start at age 21; women under 21 should not be tested.
- Women between ages 21 and 29 should have a Pap test done after every 3 years. There is also a test which is called the HPV test. HPV testing should only be used in this age group in case of an abnormal Pap test result.
- Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test called as “co-testing” done after every 5 years. This is the most favored approach, but it is also OK to have a Pap test alone after every 3 years.
- Women over age 65 who have had consistent cervical cancer testing in the past 10 years with normal results should not be tested for cervical cancer. The testing should not be started again, once it is stopped. Women with a serious history of a cervical pre-cancer should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after that diagnosis. Even if testing continues past age 65.
- A woman who has had a total hysterectomy (removal of her uterus and her cervix) for reasons unrelated to cervical cancer and who don’t have the history of cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer should not needed to be tested.
- A woman who has been vaccinated against HPV should follow the screening commendations for her age group.
Some women may need to be tested more often because of their history. They should discourse to a health care provider about their history.
Ovarian cancer is more common among older women. Women who had their first child after age 30 or who have never had children or who have unexplained infertility, may be at high risk for this cancer. Those women who use estrogen alone as hormone replacement therapy are also high risk. Women with a personal or family history of hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), breast cancer, or ovarian cancer, are more expected to have this disease. But women who do not have any of these disorders can still develop ovarian cancer.
What you can do
There are no proper tests for finding ovarian cancer early at this time. A Pap test is also unable to find ovarian cancer. But there are some other tests which may be used in women with a high threat of ovarian cancer.
If you have any of these symptoms for more than a week, you should consult a health care provider immediately:
- Abdominal or belly swelling
- Digestive problems (such as bloating, gas, and loss of appetite)
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Feeling like you need to urinate all the time
Take control of your health and reduce your cancer risk
- Stay away from tobacco.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Get moving with regular physical activity
- Eat healthy with plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- Limit how much you drink alcohol.
- Know yourself, your risks and your family history.
- Get regular check-ups and cancer screening tests.