In honor of National Women’s Health Week (May 12-18), there are five things that all women may want to know about cancer awareness and cancer prevention. The most important things include when to get a mammogram and when to get a pap smear, how to prevent skin cancer, to quit smoking, and to make a few lifestyle adjustments to maintain overall health.
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that is used to detect breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women. About 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. The American Cancer Society uses these guidelines for when women should get a mammogram:
- All women age 40 and over should get a mammogram done every year to screen for breast cancer.
- For women with a family history of breast cancer (women who have a known BRCA gene mutation), the American Cancer Society recommends getting a mammogram every year.
- For women under the age of 40, it is important to do self-examinations so that if you find any changes you can tell your doctor.
For more detailed information read the American Cancer Society’s webpage on Breast Cancer: Early Detection.
2. Pap Smear
A Pap smear (Pap test) is a screening done to detect cancer of the cervix. The American Cancer Society uses these guidelines for when women should get a Pap smear:
- All women should begin cervical cancer screening when they are 21. From the ages 21-29 women should have a Pap test every 3 years.
- Women age 30 to 65 should get a Pap smear and HPV test every 5 years.
- Women with a high risk of cervical cancer may need to be screened more often by recommendation from their healthcare team.
For more detailed information read the American Cancer Society’s webpage on Cervical Cancer Prevention. Also be sure to consult your doctor if you have any questions on when and how often you should be screened.
3. Quit Smoking
Lung cancer is the first leading cause of cancer deaths in women, and smoking is the most preventable cause of early death in the U.S.. Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and about 15 other types of cancer. Smoking can also cause problems during pregnancy. Ladies, while it may be difficult, it is very important to kick the habit.
For more detailed information on how smoking affects your health and how you can quit smoking read the American Cancer Society’s webpage on Women and Smoking.
4. Limit Sun Exposure
Skin cancer is the most common cancer that women may face in their lifetime; anyone can get skin cancer. Most skin cancer can be prevented by taking care of yourself when you are in the sun. Here are some important tips to protecting your skin from the sun:
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and apply it at least every two hours.
- Wear a hat or protective clothing when you are in the sun.
- Check your skin and moles for irregularities or changes and consult your doctor.
Related Article: 5 Things You May Want to Know About Melanoma
5. Healthy Lifestyle Habits
The best way to prevent cancer is through early detection. Here are a few general ways you can better your lifestyle as a defense against cancer!
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Be aware of yourself, family history, and your risks.
Women, what are your secrets to staying healthy? We would like to hear your suggestions and comments about keeping your health before, during, and after cancer.