Cancer and Women
You can take steps every day to lower your chance of getting certain kinds of cancer.
Most cancers take years to develop. Many things can affect your chance of getting cancer. Things that raise your chance of getting cancer are called risk factors.
You can’t control some risk factors, like getting older. But you can control many others. In fact, there are things you can do every day to avoid getting cancer.Two of the most important things you can do are making healthy choices and getting the screening tests that are right for you.
Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to lower your cancer risk. Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body. If you don’t smoke, make sure you stay away from other people’s smoke.
The link between smoking and cancer is well-known. But you may be surprised by other things that can lead to cancer.
- Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or artificial sources like a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp can cause skin cancer, the most common cancer.
- Drinking alcohol raises your risk of getting six kinds of cancer, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
- About 40% of all cancers are associated with overweight and obesity.
Screening tests can find breast, cervical, and colorectal (colon) cancers early, when treatment works best. Lung cancer screening is recommended for some people who are at high risk.
Mammograms are the best test to find breast cancer early. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a group of experts, recommends that you get a mammogram every two years if you’re 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer. If you’re 40 to 49 years old, ask your doctor when to start and how often to get a mammogram.
Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early. The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.
- If you’re 21 to 29 years old: You should get Pap tests regularly.
- If you’re 30 to 65 years old: You can get a Pap test, an HPV test, or both tests together.
- If you’re older than 65: You may not need to be screened anymore if you have had normal screening test results for several years.
You should start getting screened for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, and get screened regularly until you’re 75. Several screening tests are available. Some can be done at home, and others are done in a doctor’s office. Talk to your doctor about which test is right for you.
In this video, Lisa talks about how her family history of cancer affected her as a young mother, and offers a tip for talking about it with your family.
When you get the results of your mammogram, you may also be told that you have dense breasts. This video explains what that means and why it’s important.