Find out what you can do to help avoid being one of the 28,000 women a year who die from breast, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancer. Obesity is a factor.
There are four key things women can do to lower their risk and increase their survival odds if they do get one of these diseases.
The four tips for helping prevent, or helping survive cancer of the breast, ovaries, uterus and other gynecological tumors, come from the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO).
Tip #1. Be familiar with family history. Do you know what your grandmother died from, for instance? “Old age” might really have been breast or ovarian cancer.
If you have a family history, the SGO recommends a consultation with a genetic counselor and possibly genetic testing.
The SGO considers family history of breast and ovarian cancer a risk factor.
In fact, the SGO also says that a family history of colon and uterine cancer may be a risk factor as well for breast and ovarian.
Tip #2. The Pap smear is remarkably effective at preventing uterine (endometrial) cancer because a swab of cells can detect cells at varying stages of being atypical — the forerunner of actual cancerous cells.
The procedure is done as part of the routine gynecological exam.
Tip #3. If you have a gynecological malignancy, seek treatment from a gynecological oncologist rather than an OB/GYN.
The gynecological oncologist specializes in cancers of the female reproductive system.
Tip #4. Weight management. The most common gynecological cancer is that of the uterus. A major risk factor is being overweight.
“Excess fat means excess estrogen because androstenedione (an androgen) gets converted in peripheral fat to a weak estrogen called estrone,” says Dr. Kimberly Langdon, MD, OBGYN, medical advisor at Medzino Health.
“The more fat, the more of it is converted. Estrogen, in turn, can stimulate the growth of any organ that has estrogen receptors and can cause the lining of the uterus to grow thicker and thicker, which can lead to uterine cancer.
“Same for breast and ovarian cancer, excess estrogen of any kind can trigger tumor growth.”