Often when we talk about women’s cancers, we focus on breast cancer. This makes sense for many reasons. Breast cancer primarily affects women. And it does so in a major way: it’s the leading cause of cancer death for women under 55.
Still, we shouldn’t stop the conversation about women and cancer there. For example, the number one overall cancer killer of women is lung cancer. And we also face high instances of colon, cervical and ovarian cancers.
Cancer facts and statistics are helpful to know, in part because they encourage us to take preventative steps to stay healthy. So what steps can you take to help you stay free from breast cancer and other cancers that women frequently face?
There are no guarantees, but lifestyle choices can increase your risk for most cancers. Here are a few things you can do to lessen that risk:
Stop smoking today. The cancer rate would drop by 30 percent if people would give up this unhealthy and expensive habit.
Eat right. The connection between cancer and being overweight is clear. A healthy weight means less cancer risk.
Exercise. About 30 minutes of exercise a day will help you keep the weight down.
Limit your drinking. While a glass of red wine a day may help your heart, regularly drinking more than that can increase your cancer risk.
Look into supplements. Calcium pills and dietary fiber may reduce your risk of colon cancers. Other supplements such as Vitamin D may help reduce the risk breast cancer. Keep an eye out for new studies and recommendations.
Stay out of tanning beds. The risk is too great for skin cancer. If you want some summer color, go get a spray tan.
Find a healthcare provider you can talk to. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get the answers you need.
Be aware of your family history. Sharing this with your doctor will help make sure that you get the correct screenings at the correct times.
Stay on schedule with your screenings. Early detection is the key to a good outcome for those who have cancer. Don’t be afraid of finding out the answer. Waiting is the worst thing you can do. Women should begin getting mammograms at age 40 and colonoscopies at age 50. Preps for a colonoscopy procedure have changed to be less invasive and more tolerable. So don’t just skip that one. Women should start with pap smears for cervical cancer at age 21, or three years after first intercourse.
You can also do your part to fight cancer for all women by taking part in special fundraising and awareness events. For instance, the Weekend to End Breast Cancer will take place September 26 and 27 with people walking more than 60K over two days. The event raises money for the St.Vincent Foundation’s efforts to help Indiana fight women’s cancers. You can find out more or sign up to participate at www.endcancer.org.
While taking preventive steps can’t guarantee you’ll stay cancer-free forever, there’s no reason to be passive about cancer prevention. A change of lifestyle might just save your life.