Cancer Awareness – Common Cancers In Women

February 3, 2021

World Cancer Day

February 4th is World Cancer Day.  World Cancer Day was started on the 4th of February in 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris.  World Cancer Day was created to promote research efforts, prevent cancer, improve patient care, raise awareness, and mobilize the global community to make progress against cancer.  With recent studies showing that 1 out of 6 people dying globally from cancer – World Cancer Day elevates causes to support proper diagnosis, treatment, and care for all. 

Cancers Commonly Found In Women

Breast Cancer

In America, breast cancer is one the most common type of cancer found in women – with the exception of skin cancer.  Breast cancer affects all ages but the risk increases as women get older. Make sure to get regular screening tests to find breast cancer early – early detection gives you a better chance at beating breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following for women at average risk for breast cancer:

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start yearly breast cancer screening with a mammogram (x-ray of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women ages 45 to 54 should get a mammogram every year.
  • Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every 2 years or can continue yearly screening.

If you feel that you are at risk of having breast cancer because of family history, genetic mutations, or any other risk factors – let your doctor know.

Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer is a type of cancer that affects the inner lining of the uterus.  Women, as they get older, have a higher risk of endometrial cancer.

Risk Factors

  • Taking estrogen without progesterone and tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment.
  • Early-onset menstrual periods, history of infertility, late menopause or not having children can increase the risk as well.
  • Women who have had ovarian cancer or breast cancer – can also have an increased risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Obesity, personal or family history of hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer can also put you at risk.

It is recommended by the American Cancer Society, to talk to your health care provider about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer at menopause. Especially if you experience an unusual discharge, spotting, or vaginal bleeding.  Also, endometrial cancer is not always detected in a Pap test- it is very important that you get regular pelvic exams.  

Cervical Cancer

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common risk factor for cervical cancer. If you have regular screening tests, cervical cancer can often be found early, and sometimes even prevented. If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers. Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix – the lower part of the uterus. The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina. 

Recommendations from the American Cancer Society:

  • Testing for cervical cancer should start at age of 25.
  • Between the ages of 25 and 65 it is recommended to be tested for HPV every 5 years. 
  • If you are over the age of 65 and have had regular cervical cancer testing in the past 10 years with normal results – you should not be tested for cervical cancer. If you have had a history of serious cervical precancer you should continue to be tested for at least 25 years after your diagnosis, even if testing goes past the age of 65.
  • Those who have had a total hysterectomy should stop testing unless the surgery was done to treat cervical cancer or a serious precancer.
  • Even if you have been vaccinated against HPV you should still follow the screening recommendations for your age group.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer can occur at any age – risk factor increases as women get older.  For women that have never had children or have had their first child after the age of 35 can have an increased risk of this type of cancer. Those that have used estrogen alone as a hormone replacement therapy are also at increased risk.  Women that have had a personal experience or family history of non-polyposis colorectal cancer/ Lynch Syndrome, ovarian cancer or breast cancer also have higher risk factor ovarian cancer.  Even if you have not had any of these conditions you may still be at risk. Know your family history and be sure to get regular pelvic exams.

If you experience any of these symptoms for more than a few weeks contact your doctor:

  • Abdominal swelling with weight loss.
  • Digestive problems (gas, loss of appetite, and bloating).
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain.
  • Feeling the need to urinate frequently.

To help reduce your risk of cancer – follow the below guidelines from the American Cancer Society

  • Avoid tobacco.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  Limit or avoid red/processed meats, and highly processed foods.
  • Avoid or limit your alcohol intake.  No more than one drink per day for women.
  • Protect your skin.
  • Stay informed.  Know your family history and your risks.
  • Make sure you are getting your regular check-ups and cancer screening tests.

Do not be afraid to ask questions.  At OB-GYN Women’s Centre we care about you and your well being.  Stay healthy and schedule your appointment.