Cancer is a condition that results when abnormal cells grow out of control. Anyone can get cancer at any age, but women are at special risk for certain types of cancer.
• Breast – Although it may seem that breast cancer is a gender-specific condition, both men and women can get breast cancer. In women, the cancer usually forms in the ducts or tubes that carry milk to the nipple as well as in the glands that make milk. Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the U.S. and it is the second highest cause of cancer deaths among women.
When cancer forms in the breast, it typically creates a tumor that may be felt through the breast tissue. A mammogram can “see” these lumps, sometimes even before they can be felt. Regular breast exams can provide early detection which can allow for more effective treatment.
• Lung – Approximately 65,000 women die from lung cancer each year, making lung cancer the most fatal type of cancer for women in the United States. Many lung cancer deaths could have been prevented since nearly 4 out of 5 lung cancer deaths in the United States are caused by smoking. You can reduce your risk of lung cancer by not smoking and by avoiding second-hand smoke.
• Colorectal – Also known as colon cancer, this disease is the third highest cause of cancer deaths among women in America. Colon cancer often starts as polyps in the colon which can be detected and removed before they turn to cancer. Doctors recommend colon cancer screenings for everyone beginning at age 50 to allow for early detection and treatment.
• Gynecological – This group of cancers refers to cancers of the female reproductive system, including the cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina, vulva, and fallopian tubes. Cervical cancer is a type of gynecological cancer that forms in the cervix, which connects the uterus (womb) and vagina (birth canal). Cervical cancer is usually caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV.
A Pap test can check for abnormal cells in the cervix that could turn into cervical cancer. A vaccine to fight HPV is available for girls and women from 9 to 26 years old. The vaccine protects against most kinds of HPV which cause cervical cancer. An HPV screening test is also available for women of all ages.
Early detection and early treatment offer the best defense against most types of cancer. If you are concerned about your health or about specific symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cancer and Women. Web. October 24, 2011.
National Cancer Institute. Women’s Cancers. Web. October 24, 2011.
About.com: Women’s Health. Cancer and Women Cancer Types A-Z. Web. October 24, 2011.
National Cancer Institute. Breast Cancer. Web. October 24, 2011.
National Cancer Institute. Cervical Cancer. Web. October 24, 2011.
Reviewed October 25, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith