How Do I Reduce My Risk Of Cancer?

Women fighting with pink gloves, for how do I reduce my risk of cancer post

Our women patients often ask “How do I reduce my risk of cancer?” Below are listed several types of cancer that affect women, some of the warning signs and tips on how to reduce your overall risk of getting cancer.

What are the warning signs of cancer?

Certain changes in your body may be signs of cancer:

  • A change in bowel or bladder habits
  • A sore that does not heal
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Thickening or a lump in the breast or other parts of the body
  • Skin changes, including a wart or mole that changes in color or size
  • Indigestion or trouble swallowing
  • A nagging cough or hoarseness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue) even after sleep

These are not always signs of cancer, but they can be clues that something is wrong. If you notice something different in how your body looks or feels, contact your health care professional.

How can I reduce my overall risk of cancer?

The following lifestyle changes may reduce your risk of cancer:

  • Do not smoke.
  • Limit your time in the sun, use sunscreen, and do not use tanning beds.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink to no more than one drink per day.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. The body mass index (BMI) is a tool that often is used to measure body fat based on height and weight. To find out your BMI, you can use the online calculator at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm
  • A person with a BMI of 18.5–24.9 is at a normal weight.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Limit how much processed and red meat you eat. Have at least 2–3 cups of fruits and vegetables daily. Choose brown rice and whole wheat bread instead of white rice and white bread.
  • Exercise regularly. Get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week.
  • Get cancer screening tests and vaccines as recommended for your age group and health history.

What types of cancer should women be aware of?

There are many types of cancer. Some common types of cancer in women include the following:

  • Breast
  • Lung
  • Colon
  • Endometrium (lining of the uterus)
  • Skin
  • Ovary
  • Cervix
  • Vulva

How can I reduce my risk of breast cancer?

The main risk factors for breast cancer—being a woman and getting older—cannot be controlled. But there are some things you can do that may lower your risk of breast cancer:

  • Stay at a healthy weight. A person with a BMI of 18.5–24.9 is at a normal weight.
  • Exercise regularly. Get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.
  • Breastfeed.

It also is important to have mammography, which screens for breast cancer. Finding breast cancer early makes it easier to treat.

Women at average risk of breast cancer should be offered mammography starting at age 40 years. If you have not started screening in your 40s, you should begin having mammography no later than age 50 years.

Screening should be done every 1–2 years until at least age 75 years.

Women at high risk of breast cancer, such as those with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, may need to have more frequent screening. You and your obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn)  should talk together about what age to begin screening

How can I reduce my risk of lung cancer?

Most cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking cigarettes. The best way to protect yourself from lung cancer is to not smoke. As soon as you stop smoking, your risk will begin to decrease. You also should avoid being around people who are smoking.

If you smoke, ask your health care professional for advice on how to quit or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. This national network for quitting smoking will connect you to counselors in your state. These counselors can offer resources and advice about quitting.

Women aged 55–80 years with a history of smoking should ask their health care professional about annual screening for lung cancer. Screening is recommended for women who are currently heavy smokers or who have quit within the past
15 years.

How can I reduce my risk of colon cancer?

Colon cancer often begins as a polyp. Routine screenings can help detect polyps before they become cancer. Removing precancerous polyps can prevent colon cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends getting a colon cancer screening test starting at age 45 years.

These tests may include the following:

Tests that look through the colon with a telescope:

  • Colonoscopy
  • Sigmoidoscopy

X-ray tests:

  • Virtual colonoscopy

Tests that examine stool for blood or abnormal genetic material:

  • Fecal occult blood test
  • DNA stool test

Talk with your health care professional about which screening test is right for you. Limiting how much processed and red meat you eat and having at least 2–3 cups of fruits and vegetables daily also may reduce your risk of colon cancer.

How can I reduce my risk of cancer of the uterus?

Cancer of the lining of the uterus is called endometrial cancer. It is not possible to prevent most cases of this cancer. But there are a few steps you can take that may reduce your risk. These include:

  • Stay at a healthy weight. A person with a BMI of 18.5–24.9 is at a normal weight.
  • Exercise regularly. Get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week.
  • Get treated for any endometrial problems before they become cancer. Symptoms of endometrial problems can include spotting or bleeding outside of your menstrual period or after menopause. Treatments may include birth control pills, progestin pills or injection, an intrauterine device (IUD) that releases progestin, or a vaginal progesterone cream.
  • Talk with your doctor if you have a strong family history of cancer. A genetic condition known as Lynch syndrome may increase your risk of endometrial cancer and other types of cancer.

How can I reduce my risk of skin cancer?

You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by taking the following steps:

  • Avoid being out in the sun, especially between 10 am and 4 pm daylight saving time (9 am to 3 pm standard time).
  • Use sunscreen that has both UVA and UVB protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV rays, clothing that covers your arms and legs, and hats that shade your head and neck.
  • Do not use tanning beds or sun lamps.
  • Watch the moles and spots on your skin. Tell your health care professional if you notice any changes. Ask for a skin exam during your regular check-ups.

How can I reduce my risk of cancer of the ovary?

Ovarian cancer is hard to detect, so women should be aware of changes in their bodies. See your health care professional if you have any of these symptoms for more than a few weeks:

  • Abdominal swelling or pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

There are some things you can do that may reduce your risk.

Birth Control Pills. Using birth control pills lowers the risk of ovarian cancer. The benefit is greater if you have used the pill for several years. Talk with your health care professional about the possible benefits and risks of taking birth control pills.

Surgery. Women at high risk of ovarian cancer may consider surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This surgery may reduce the risk of cancer. Women at high risk include those with a history of ovarian cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, or Lynch syndrome. The timing of surgery may depend on your desire to have children in the future. Women at average risk of ovarian cancer also may consider surgery to remove the fallopian tubes, if they are already having abdominal surgery for another reason.

How can I reduce my risk of cancer of the cervix?

You can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by taking the following steps:

  • Get Pap tests. Pap tests can find cervical problems early, before they become cancer. Women aged 21-29 years should have a Pap test every 3 years. Women aged 30–65 years should have a Pap test and a human papillomavirus (HPV) test every 5 years.
  • Get vaccinated. The HPV vaccine is given as a series of shots and protects against the HPV types that are the most common cause of cancer, precancer, and genital warts. The ideal age for HPV vaccination is age 11 years or 12 years, but anyone can be vaccinated from age 9–26 years.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Use condoms. Condoms help prevent HPV infection, but they do not give full protection.

How can I reduce my risk of cancer of the vulva?

There is no screening for cancer of the vulva, so be aware of common symptoms. These include itching, burning, or abnormal skin that may be bumpy, smooth, or a different color like white, brown, or red. Precancerous changes to vulvar skin often are caused by HPV infection. You can reduce your risk of cancer of the vulva by taking the following steps:

  • Get the HPV vaccine through age 26 years if you were not vaccinated as a child or teen.
  • Do not smoke.
LOCATION
Dr. Deepali Kashyap, MD FACOG
Galleria Women's Health
1389 Galleria Dr, Suite 220
Henderson, NV 89014
Phone: 702-983-2010
Fax: 702-476-9202
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