Cancer in Women and Screening

A common cancer causing death for women is lung cancer. Most are due to cigarette smoking. Other cancers that can be caused by smoking include cancers of the esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, uterine cervix and acute myeloid leukemia. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke have a 20-30% increased lung cancer risk.

Obesity is also a risk for cancer. The following cancers have been associated with being overweight; breast cancer in postmenopausal women, colorectal cancer, esophageal adenocarcinoma, endometrial cancer, cancer of the pancreas and kidneys.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, which are very curable, are the two most common type of skin cancer. The third most common type of skin cancer is melanoma. The majority are caused by exposure to UV light. Tanning salons should be avoided. When outdoors in the sun wear a sunscreen with a protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer related death in American women. Mammograms help define breast cancer early. If you are between the ages of 50 and 74 years, it is recommended to get a screening mammogram every 2 years. If you are in the 40-49 age bracket consult with your physician about when to start getting mammograms.

Colorectal cancer is the third common cause of cancer death in American women. Screening tests can detect precancerous polyps so they may be removed early. It is recommended that screening for colorectal cancer should start at the age of 50.

There are gynecologic cancers which can involve the cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina, vulva or rarely fallopian tubes.
Pap smear tests are able to detect abnormal cells that turn into cervical cancer. The human papilloma virus test looks for the virus that can be associated with cervical cancer.

Women should start getting regular Pap smear tests at the age of 21 or within 3 years of the first time of having sexual intercourse. The HPV test may also be used to screen women 30 years and older or any women who have indeterminate Pap test results. If your screening tests are negative and you are older than 30 years, you may need not need another PAP and HPV screening test for 5 years. If you are older than 65 years of age and had normal Pap smear tests, you may not need additional testing. Check with your physician to find out if it is okay to stop.
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