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Women's Wellness: What can you do to reduce your cancer risk?

April 23, 2015

No matter what your age, you can take action to reduce your cancer risk. This prevention and early detection plan can help you get started.

Lead a healthy lifestyle at any age

  • Stay away from all forms of tobacco
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get moving with regular physical activity
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Protect your skin from UV sun exposure
  • Know your personal health, family history, and risk factors

The American Cancer Society recommends that everyone age 20 years and up have a periodic health examination, which includes the thyroid, ovaries, lymph nodes, oral cavity, and skin, as well as health counseling about tobacco use, sun exposure, nutrition, sexual practices, and environmental and occupational exposures.

Here are some additional recommendations, according to your age group:

20s

BREAST:

• Know how your breasts normally look and feel so you can detect any changes

• Clinical breast exam (at least once every 3 years)

CERVICAL:

• Pap test starting at age 21 (every 3 years)

• HPV vaccination (before age 26, preferably at age 11–12 years)

30s

BREAST:

• Know how your breasts normally look and feel so you can detect any changes

• Clinical breast exam (at least once every 3 years)

CERVICAL:

• HPV test and Pap test (every 5 years) or Pap test (every 3 years)

40s

BREAST:

• Know how your breasts normally look and feel so you can detect any changes

• Clinical breast exam (annually)

• Begin annual mammograms at age 40

CERVICAL:

• HPV test and Pap test (every 5 years) or Pap test (every 3 years)

OVARIAN:

• Report any ongoing abdominal swelling; digestive problems; pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back, or legs; or a constant feeling of needing to urinate

50+

BREAST:

• Know how your breasts normally look and feel so you can detect any changes

• Clinical breast exam (annually)

• Mammogram (annually)

CERVICAL:

• Up to age 65: HPV test and Pap test (every 5 years) or Pap test (every 3 years)

• Over 65: If you have had 3 or more consecutive normal Pap tests, 2 or more consecutive normal HPV and Pap tests, or a total hysterectomy, you can stop cervical cancer screening.

COLORECTAL:

• Colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, double contrast barium enema, or CT colonography (every 5–10 years, depending on test)

ENDOMETRIAL:

• After menopause, report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to your physician

LUNG:

• Ages 55–74: If you are a current or former smoker with at least a 30 pack year history or a 20 pack-year history plus additional risk factors, you may be a candidate for low-dose lung CT scan (annually)

OVARIAN:

• Report any ongoing abdominal swelling; digestive problems; pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back, or legs; or a constant feeling of needing to urinate

Note: These plans focus on recommendations for people who are at average risk for developing cancer and who are not experiencing any symptoms of disease. Based on your health and family history, you and your doctor may create a more personalized prevention and screening plan.

ketteringhealth.org/cancercare