Cancer and Women
Learn your family history of cancer and what you can do to lower your cancer risk.
Jackie has a family history of cancer. Several relatives on her father’s side of the family had breast or ovarian cancer at an early age. Her doctor encouraged her to see a genetic counselor.
“I was like, ‘I don’t want to know. I’m not taking this test,’” Jackie said. “I thought about it. I could lose my daughter and not be here for her. I took the test.
“I found out that I was BRCA 1 positive,” Jackie says. “The genetic counselor laid out a couple of options for me. I decided to have my ovaries removed.
“At first it was very scary, but it became empowering. [Cancer] doesn’t have to be my destiny. I’m going to watch my kid grow up!”
Do You Know Your Family History of Cancer?
Jackie was able to take steps to lower her cancer risk because she knew cancer runs in her family. If you have a family history of breast, ovarian, uterine, or colorectal cancer, you may have a higher risk of getting cancer yourself.
Do you know if cancer runs in your family? Family gatherings like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, family reunions, and holidays are good opportunities to find out. When you get together with relatives, try to find some time to ask—respectfully—about family members’ cancer history. If you have had cancer, share your own story.
The death of Dr. Temeika Fairley’s Aunt Pat inspired her to learn about her family history of cancer. “I’ve learned a lot about my family in this process as these health conversations have often turned into stories of our history, our tenacity, and characteristics that we all share. I know that Aunt Pat would be proud of us for having these tough conversations and learning more about ourselves,” says Dr. Fairley in this blog post.
Other Tips for Lowering Your Chance of Getting Cancer
You can do several things to lower the chances that you’ll get cancer. Some of the most important are—
- Staying up-to-date on screening tests for breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancer.
- Staying away from tobacco. If you smoke, try to quit,external icon and stay away from other people’s smoke.
- Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Protecting your skin from the sun.
- Getting to and keeping a healthy weight, and staying physically active.
Fast Facts About Cancer and Women
- The most common kinds of cancer among women in the U.S. are skin, breast, lung, colorectal, and uterine.
- The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is available for girls and women who are 9 to 26 years old. It protects against most types of HPV that cause cervical and other kinds of cancer.
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.
“If you don’t take care of yourself first, then you can’t take care of others,” says breast cancer survivor Pam in this blog post.