Cancer Prevention and Screening is Crucial to Women’s Health

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May 1, 2024 – Now more than ever, we are reminded that health and wellness should always be a top priority. National Women’s Health Month and Mother’s Day, both celebrated in May, are important reminders that women can take control of their health by making feasible lifestyle choices and focusing on preventive care to lower the risk of certain cancers and other diseases. Ruth D. Stephenson, DO, FACOG, gynecologic oncologist in the Gynecologic Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health shares tips for women to live their healthiest lives.

Focus on a Healthy Lifestyle

Current nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer prevention by the American Cancer Society focus on a physically active lifestyle and healthy eating patterns at every age with an emphasis on maintaining a healthy body weight through all stages of life. It is recommended to eat foods with plenty of nutrients including a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and minimize highly processed sugary foods and drinks. Additionally, alcohol consumption has been linked to increased risk of many cancers. Therefore, not drinking alcohol or drinking in moderation is recommended to help reduce cancer risk. For people who choose to drink, limiting consumption is recommended and women should have no more than one drink per day. Following these guidelines have been shown to prevent many chronic diseases and improve health-related quality of life.

Be Mindful of Gynecologic Health

All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers. The five main types are cervical, endometrial, ovarian, vaginal and vulvar cancer. Women should always be mindful of any unusual signs or symptoms that require evaluation from a health care provider, such as pain or pressure in the pelvic area, unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding, frequent abdominal bloating or swelling or a sore in the genital area that does not heal. Screening guidelines for these types of cancers are often being updated, so, it is valuable to talk with your health care provider about what tests may be timely, such as Pap smears for cervical cancer. Additionally, annual exams from a gynecologist can help women keep their gynecologic health under control and prevent possible complications, so it is important to keep up with your scheduling annual visits.

Focus on Staying up to Date with Important Screenings

Some may think that colorectal cancer is a men’s disease, but women are just as much at risk. Several tests are available to find polyps or colorectal cancer early, including stool tests and colonoscopy.  It is typically recommended by the American Cancer Society that colorectal cancer screening for men and women should begin at age 45. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States, besides skin cancer. Fortunately, when detected early, it is also one of the most treatable. One of the best ways to tackle the disease is through early detection and screening with mammography, which can detect breast cancer before there are any signs or symptoms. Talk to your health care provider about when you should start cancer screening and what screening frequency is best for you. 

RWJBarnabas Health, in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s leading cancer program and only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, encourages women to take charge of their health. Learn more at

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