The cancers that most often affect women include breast, colon, endometrial, lung, cervical, and ovarian. Being educated about these specific cancers can help you know how to prevent them and detect them as early as possible.
The average woman’s odds of getting breast cancer are 1 in 8, and it accounts for 26% of all female cancer cases, making it the most common cancer for women. This kind of cancer can occur at any age, but it becomes much more likely after the age of 40.
Early detection of breast cancer is the best defense against it, because when it is small, it likely has not spread and is therefore much easier to treat. To increase your chances of early detection, the American Cancer Society recommends the following things:
- Women over the age of 40 should receive a mammogram annually.
- Around the age of 20 or 30, women should have clinical breast exams performed as part of their regular check-ups at least every 3 years.
- Starting in their 20s, women should perform regular breast self-examinations and report any unsual changes to a doctor.
Colon and rectal cancers account for 10% of all cancer cases for both men and women, but women specifically have about a 1 in 19 chance of developing it. Most of the time, colon cancer is found in adults over the age of 50, and your risk greatly increases if you have a family history of the illness, if you've had polyps in your colon or rectum, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease.
Early detection can also be a lifesaver for this type of cancer because it can take 10 to 15 years for abnormal cells in the colon to grow. So receiving regular screenings will detect any polyps and have them removed before they become cancerous.
This type of cancer affects the lining of the uterus and most often occurs in women over the age of 50. Endometrial cancer accounts for 6% of all cancer cases in women. If you take estrogen without progesterone or use the drug tamoxifen as a breast cancer treatment, your risk is increased.
Conversesly, using birth control pills or having multiple pregnancies decreases your risk for endometrial cancer.
Lung and bronchus cancers account for 14% of all female cancer cases and 26% of all deaths. These statistics show how deadly lung cancer really is, but even more shocking is how preventable it can be. 80% of all lung cancer cases in women could be avoided by not smoking, as smokers are up to 20 times more likely to get lung cancer than nonsmokers.
Any woman who is sexually active is at risk for developing cervical cancer. This type of cancer occurs as a result of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is why being vaccinated against this virus is crucial to staying healthy. Additionally, regular Pap tests are good for detecting any changes in the cervix early on.
The risk for ovarian cancer will increase as women get older. It is also higher for women who have troubles with infertility or who have their first child after the age of 30.
Unfortunately, tests to detect ovarian cancer before symptoms begin to show don’t really exist yet. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer, see your doctor as soon as possible. These include abdominal swelling, unexplained weight loss, pelvic pain, and changes in bowel movements.