While breast cancer is the most common cancer, with over 200,000 women diagnosed each year, it is far from being the most lethal. Women with cancer of the ovary, the pancreas, the lung, and the colon face a worse prognosis.
Here are the most common five cancers among women in the United States (2010 data, source American Cancer Society):
While the numbers look scary, by recognizing symptoms and following appropriate prevention/screening many deaths can be avoided. This is how information is power and in turn helps you to be empowered.
What can you do to lower your risk for these cancers?
Breast cancer – there is a lot of controversy over how effective mammograms are at reducing mortality from breast cancer. It seems every month a new contradictory study is reported on just how good or not good mammography is at saving lives. Currently, the recommendation in the United States is to start screening at the age of 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer screening should start 10 years before your youngest family member was diagnosed. For example, if your sister had breast cancer at age 45, you should start screening at age 35. If you have a family history, genetic testing may also be appropriate. Obesity increases the risk of breast cancer, so this is just one more reason to strive for healthy lifestyle. 30. Having 2-5 alcoholic drinks a day also increases your odds of getting breast cancer. Breastfeeding reduces your risk as does having children before the age of 30.
Lung cancer – 90% of lung cancer is due to smoking. If you smoke, stop now. More women die each year from lung cancer than breast cancer. Cigarettes kill a lot of women.
Colorectal cancer – screening should start at age 50, but possibly younger depending on your family history. There are different screening methods, so talk with your doctor about the one that is right for you. Report any blood in your stool to your doctor.
Uterine cancer – the most common warning sign is irregular bleeding, typically spotting between your periods. If you are 35 years or older and having irregular bleeding tell your doctor as an evaluation of the lining of your uterus may be required. Obesity is a major risk factor for cancer of the uterus (fatty tissue makes estrogen and excess estrogen stimulates the lining of the uterus to grow abnormally). Because obese women are at increased risk for uterine cancer, if they have abnormal bleeding and are less than 35 years old they may require testing.
Skin cancer – is largely preventable. Wear sunscreen all the time and never ever use a tanning bed. Use of a tanning bed before the age of 30 is associated with a 75% increase in your chance of getting melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Tanning beds are classed as cancer causing by the WHO (World Health Organization) and are banned in some countries. Telling someone a tanning bed is okay to use now and then is like telling them it’s okay to smoke now and then. Neither are safe at all in any dose.