New Brunswick, N.J., May 4, 2021 – 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. Encourage the mother figures and special women in your life to choose wisely for their healthiest lives with the following tips.
Focus on a Healthy Lifestyle
Current nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer prevention and control by the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research emphasize a healthy lifestyle rather than focusing on individual nutrients. Specifically, these recommendations include a physically active lifestyle, 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 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 other chronic diseases and improve health-related quality of life.
Be Mindful of Gynecologic Health
All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers. Gynecologic cancers start in a woman’s reproductive organs. 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. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both women and men. Several tests are available to find polyps or colorectal cancer early, including stool tests and colonoscopy). Screening is recommended to start between 45-50 years.
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States and is the second leading cause of cancer death among women after lung 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. The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 45 to 54 at average risk for developing breast cancer have a mammogram annually, while women 55 and older should have it every two years or continue yearly screening.
Talk to your health care provider about when you should start cancer screening and what screening frequency is best for you. Do not forget to follow up with your provider if any abnormal results are found and get any needed additional tests or treatment. While COVID-19 has put on hold many of our routines, we can keep cancer prevention in mind for a healthier life.
What is a better gift, than the gift of health? Visit our Cancer Prevention Resource Center to learn more.
Elisa V. Bandera, MD, PhD, is chief of Cancer Epidemiology and Health Outcomes and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. She is also a professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a professor of epidemiology at Rutgers School of Public Health. Dr. Bandera has been involved in the development of national and international nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer prevention and control with the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund International.
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