With more than 200 forms of cancer overcoming our bodies every year, it’s been a struggle to find preventative methods and early detection procedures to save lives. Although women are prone to all forms of this deadly disease, the most common forms killing women are lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal (colon) and gynecologic cancers (which include ovarian, cervix, vulva, vagina and uterine).
Before you break into cold sweats while you think about what form of cancer you may be most susceptible to, try a few things first:
- Grab a phone, drop an e-mail or visit your family members and ask them to help you build a “family tree.” I know, that sounds like a middle school art project, but understanding your family history is a good road map to realizing how susceptible you are to various types of cancer. A little research can uncover who has been diagnosed with which form of cancer and how they got it. Did Aunt Betty get lung cancer because she chain-smoked four packs a day? Or, how about great grandma Doris – she never smoked and still got cancer. What’s the deal?
- Do yourself a favor and don’t put this off. Better to know if cousin Laurie may be giving you her pair of hand-me-down vintage jeans with some hand-me-down cancer genes (which all females know are never in style).
In addition to building a diagram of your family history, here’s a quick checklist to run though once a month:
1) Do I smoke or spend time somewhere where there is smoke? Do I have a radon detector in the house? Even second-hand smoke can lead to lung cancer, so don’t think you are in the clear if your husband smokes and you don’t.
2) Self, breast and body exam. Come on ladies, your body belongs to you! Know exactly how it feels at every angle and know your moles, freckles and birth marks. Your significant other isn’t feeling for lumps (trust me!), so get familiar with yourself.
3) Are you bloated more than usual? Constipated for more than a week? Feel dizzy or just totally off? If so, call your doctor immediately. You never know what is triggering your body’s response to these symptoms.
4) Have you had a Pap smear in the last year? If not, call your doctor today. Insurance or no insurance, it could save your life!
Of course, this checklist isn’t a miracle detector for cancer, but it can help steer you in the right direction toward and help prevent long-term neglect if there is an issue. So ladies, don’t shrug your shoulders and think you are immune – remember the 200 forms of cancer line from above? There isn’t a cure (yet), but we can do everything in our power to catch it before it’s too late.
Samara is an avid women's health advocate who strives to teach and empower all women to take charge of their mind and body.