Women's Center

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Women and Female Cancers

CancerThere are certain cancers that most often affect women. Amongst them is breast, endometrial, cervical and ovarian cancers. Knowing about these cancers and what you can do to prevent them or detect them early (when they are small and easier to treat) may help save your life.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can develop at any age in any woman and is the second most common cancer diagnosed among women. Only skin cancer is diagnosed more frequently. There are several types of breast cancers that occur almost entirely in women but men can also face a breast cancer diagnosis. Performing monthly breast self-exams is a first defense in detecting breast cancer. If an abnormality is found while performing a self-breast exam, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

What you can do:

  • Women age 40 and older should get a mammogram each year and continue to do so as long as they are in good health.
  • Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam done as part of a regular check-up by a health professional, preferably every 3 years. Women 40 and older should have yearly breast exams.
  • Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change to their physician.

Gynecologic Cancers

Gynecologic cancers occur in the female reproductive organs, including the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva. There are four main types of gynecological cancers women should discuss with their doctors: uterine, ovarian, cervical and vulvar.

Each of these gynecological cancers is unique and has their own signs and symptoms. Some are more easily treatable than others and affect different parts of the reproductive organs. Uterine cancer is the most common of the gynecological cancers and develops in the lining of the uterus. Ovarian cancer is often detected in the advanced stages of the disease and is often difficult to treat. Thanks to screenings and vaccines, cervical cancer is one of the least common cancers. Vulvar cancer is rare and the least recognized gynecological cancer.

What you can do:

  • Watch for symptoms, such as unusual spotting or bleeding not related to menstrual periods, and report these to a health professional.
  • Cervical cancer testing should start at age 21.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test.
  • A woman who has been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for her age group.

Regular screenings and self-exams can help detect certain types of gynecologic cancers and breast cancer in the early stages, when treatment is more likely to be successful. Diet, exercise and lifestyle choices play a significant role in the prevention of cancer. Knowing your family history and sharing that information with your doctor is extremely helpful in early detection as well.

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