When it comes to “women’s health” there are many different political views that have been used as campaign platforms and has caused a lot of controversy, but here at HomeTown Wellness we are only interested in keeping women healthy and well. Therefore, the topics we will discuss will always have the patient in mind and leave the politics out of it.
Women in America are at risk for lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and cervical cancer. For this blog, we will focus our attention on two of these cancers: lung and breast cancer.
According to the latest statistics by the CDC, the number one cancer by which women in America die is LUNG CANCER. Breast cancer is the second leading cause and the third leading cause is colorectal cancer. Uterine and cervical cancers are 10th and 12th among the list of cancers that cause death to women in America. The reason why uterine and cervical cancer is less today than in the past is due to the fact that there are more and more woman getting checked for these cancers than ever before and modern medicine is able to treat the symptoms in its early stages and contain the growth of these cancers so much as that fewer American women are dying from these types of cancers. However, there are still large numbers of women dying from lung, breast and colorectal cancers.
Lung cancer claimed the lives of 69,356 women in America in 2006 and the number increases each year by 40%. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/data/women.htm. Smoking is attributed as the leading cause for lung cancer. In fact, smoking is responsible for 85% of lung cancers. We all know the health risks to smoking, and we know this is a habit that is not easily broken. So, with that in mind, here is a simple plan to use after deciding to quit the habit of smoking:
Start your stop smoking plan with START (http://www.helpguide.org/mental/quit_smoking_cessation.htm)
S = Set a quit date.
T = Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit.
A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you’ll face while quitting.
R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.
T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.
Another cancer women need to take action regarding is Breast Cancer. How is breast cancer prevented? What can a woman do if they suspect they might have breast cancer but are not sure? Where do you go for help if you are uninsured and under insured?
Women can fight against getting breast cancer. The following was taken from an article by Bright Pink found at website: http://www.brightpink.org/for-high-risk-young-women/get-informed/risk-factors-and-prevention/
Understanding Risk Factors
While we can’t exactly say what causes breast and ovarian cancer, we can identify things that have been shown to increase our risk.
Risk factors come from a lot of different places in our lives – what’s happened to us in the past, who we are today and how we’re planning for the future.
Factors from Your Past
In many ways our past shapes who we are, from our favorite songs and the teams we root for to our health. For some of us, parts of our past are a hint that we may be at an increased risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer, such as:
Personal History of Breast Cancer
If a woman has developed cancer in one breast, she has a three-to-four fold increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast. (This is different from a return of the first cancer).
It’s also important to know that if a woman has had breast cancer, she’s at an increased risk for developing ovarian cancer.
Women who started menstruating at an early age (before age 12) or who went through menopause at a late age (after age 55) have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Chest Radiation Treatments
Your risk for developing breast cancer is significantly increased if you’ve received radiation treatments to the chest for another cancer (like Hodgkin’s disease or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) at a young age, particularly while your breasts were developing. Some reports found it to be as much as 12 times the normal risk.
The good news is that if you received chemotherapy as well, your risk may be lowered if the chemotherapy stopped ovarian hormone production.
From the 1940s through the 1960s, some women were given diethylstilbestrol (DES) to reduce the odds of miscarriage. Recent studies show DES exposure may increase risk of developing breast cancer not only for those women, but also women who were also exposed to the drug in utero.
The Woman You Are Today
While we each have every reason to celebrate who we are, we should be aware that some of our identifying characteristics make us more likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer. Take note if any of these apply to you:
Being a woman is the greatest risk factor for developing breast and ovarian cancer. While men can develop breast cancer, it is much more common in women because the cells in our breasts are constantly exposed to estrogen and progesterone, the female hormones that promote growth.
Your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer increases as you get older. About two thirds of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 55. In fact, 78% of all invasive breast cancer diagnoses occur in women age 50 or older – women in their 40s account for only 17% of diagnoses. The stats are even lower for young women.
Family History and Genetics
Sometimes breast and ovarian cancers seem to run in the family. Sometimes, this is because mutated genes (the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes) have been passed down to you from your mother or father. These genes dramatically increase the risk of developing cancer.
- A family history of cancer makes you more likely to be diagnosed at an earlier age than other women.
- Your risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer doubles if your mother, sister or daughter has had breast or ovarian cancer.
- A strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer may indicate an inherited gene mutation for a small percentage of women. Speak to your doctor about genetic testing to determine if you carry this gene and are at an increased risk.
Women of certain races, lineage and backgrounds may have an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis among African American women, and some black women are experiencing an especially aggressive form. People of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry are more prone to being carriers of BRCA gene mutations, which also puts them at a higher risk.
Recent studies show that dense breasts are a risk factor for breast cancer. Further, they make tumors more difficult to detect with traditional mammography. Thus, the American College of Radiology recommends that women with dense breasts consider MRIs and/or ultrasounds to supplement their mammograms.
Your Future is in Your Hands
Many of the habits you form today can influence your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer in the future. So from now forward, commit to:
- A low-fat diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption
- Regular exercise
After knowing the risks, it is now for you to determine what your risk is for having a bout with breast cancer. Consider the following: (taken from an article by Bright Pink found at website: http://www.brightpink.org/for-high-risk-young-women/get-informed/risk-factors-and-prevention/
The 411 on BRCA Genes
Scientists know of two genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2 (for breast cancer gene 1 and 2), whose job is to stop uncontrolled cell division in breast and ovarian cells.
You have two copies of each gene, a BRCA1 and BRCA2 from your mother and also one of each from your father. As long as at least one gene in each set works normally, cancer won’t form in your breasts or ovaries. The two copies of each gene act as a backup for the other; if one is damaged, the other still handles repairs.
However, if both copies of either BRCA1 or BRCA2 are damaged (often through exposure to nicotine, alcohol or other chemicals), cancer is free to grow. This is how people born with two normal copies of each BRCA gene can develop breast or ovarian cancer.
Gene Mutation = Higher Cancer Risk
Some people are not born with normal BRCA genes—they inherit a mutation (an abnormal genetic change) in one of their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Since they lack backup protection, any damage to the remaining normal BRCA gene in either set can lead to cancer.
People born with a BRCA gene mutation carry a much higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer than those born with two normal sets of genes.
It’s estimated that 1 in every 800 people has a BRCA 1 or BRCA2 mutation.
Why Know My Risk Level?
There are actually several reasons, and they’re all in line with our view of a brighter, more empowered future.
1. You can do something about it.
While some say ignorance is bliss, we believe knowledge is power.
Women who find out they’re at high risk for cancer can take advantage of medical options that may detect cancer at a treatable stage – or prevent cancer from developing at all.
2. It may give you peace of mind.
Even though learning that you are at a high risk can be scary, having that information can help you evaluate your options and choose appropriate actions to take control of your health.
3. It may affect your lifestyle choices.
Knowing your risk can help you make plans for the future. Some women use risk information to make lifestyle choices that impact cancer risk—like taking hormones or undergoing screening tests. Others use the information for decisions regarding family planning, such as when to start or stop having kids.
What you can do if you suspect a lump in your breast and you are uninsured or under insured:
The Health Women Program is a program specifically for women who have found a lump on their breast and need to see a doctor. It is funded by the U.S. Center for Disease Control. For more information, please visit this website: http://www.mfhs.org/about_healthywoman.php.