Women and Cancer

Many cancers affect women, but there are eight that we address in this risk factor graphic. While most people recover from cancer with treatment, others do not. It’s important to remember that some cancers may be preventable. We’ve known for decades the tobacco causes lung cancer. Now we know that about half of all smokers will lose their life to a lung related disease including lung cancer. We also know there is a small but serious family history for some lung cancers. The risks for women are especially cruel: estrogen adds to the our risk, secondhand smoke is a risk factor, as is radon exposure in the home. Knowing your risk factors and taking action could save your life.

Of rising concern is a group of viruses known as HPV, cancer causing strains that are sexually transmitted. It is so widely occurring that it’s quite common in our population. HPV strains 16 and 18 cause 70% of all cervical cancers and other high-risk HPV viruses include 31, 33, 45, 52, 58 and a few others. The good news is that most women’s bodies clear the virus often without knowing they were infected, sparing them from cervical cancer. Further, cervical cancer is highly treatable when caught early. But cervical cancer causes almost no symptoms, the cells silently replicating until the cancer is terribly serious. A group of 3 vaccines are changing the dynamic of this disease. I recommend them.

These are just two of eight cancers we as women are at risk of in our lifetime. We know that we can reduce that risk by understanding them. And by advocating for ourselves and our health we take back a little of the control that’s lost to this difficult disease.