There are certain cancers — breast and cervical cancer in particular — that women need to know about. In fact, more than 400 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year in Anne Arundel County. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in Anne Arundel County after lung cancer. However, through education, early detection and prompt treatment, we are seeing that the mortality rate from both breast and cervical cancer is decreasing. It is critical for women to get educated and checked for these cancers.
What are breast and cervical cancer?
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other areas of the body.
Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast. There are different kinds of breast cancer. The kind of breast cancer depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer, which can begin in different parts of the breast, such as the ducts or the lobes.
Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus.
What are the symptoms of breast and cervical cancer?
Different people have different warning signs. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all. Screening is the best way to detect breast and cervical cancer. If you have any signs that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
For more information on breast and cervical cancer, order a free Women's Health Kit or call the Learn To Live Line at 410-222-7979.
For information on the Department of Health's free screening services, call 410-222-6180 or click here.
What are some risk factors for breast and cervical cancer?
Risk factors for breast cancer include the following:
Demographic Risk Factors:
Personal or family history (first-degree relative)
Genetics (BRCA mutations)
Reproductive Risk Factors:
Early age of menarche
Late age of first birth
Few or no pregnancies
Late age at menopause
Lifestyle Risk Factors:
Overweight or obesity
Lack of physical activity
Other Risk Factors:
History of radiation
Hormonal therapy use
Risk factors for cervical cancer include the following:
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. There are many types of HPV. Some HPV types can cause changes on a woman's cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time. For more information on HPV and the HPV vaccine, click here.
Having multiple sexual partners.
History of sexually transmitted disease.
Having first sexual intercourse at a young age.
Even if you do not have any of these risk factors, you still need to be screened. Risk factors simply are those things that increase your chances of developing cancer; they are not the only reasons why cancer may develop. Discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor.
What are the screening recommendations for breast and cervical cancer?
Watch Cote de Pablo describe her experience:
Talk to your doctor about which tests are right for you and when you should have them.
Breast cancer screening recommendations:
A regular clinical breast exam by a health care professional. A clinical breast exam is an examination to feel for lumps or other changes.
Beginning at age 40, discuss mammography with your doctor to understand the benefits and risks and to determine what is best for you.
By age 50, all women should receive regular mammograms. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best method to detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat. A mammogram can often detect a lump two years before it can be felt.
Know what is normal for you. Talk to your doctor about any changes you notice.
Cervical cancer screening recommendations:
Pap tests should be done regularly as part of an overall physical exam. The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for cell changes on the cervix that may become cancer if they are not treated.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes. Talk to your doctor about whether the HPV test is right for you.
What can you do to protect yourself from breast and cervical cancer?
Learn about women's health resources and programs. Order a free Women's Health Kit or call the Learn To Live Line at 410-222-7979.
Ask a doctor about your need for a mammogram or Pap test. Your doctor can help determine what is best for you.
Know what is normal for you. The signs of breast and cervical cancer are not the same for all women. Talk to your doctor about any changes you notice.
Women between the ages of 40 and 64 who live in the County may qualify for the Department of Health's program for free breast exams, Pap tests and mammograms. Eligible women receive free care by private health care providers throughout the County. View the Free Health Exams for Women fact sheet for more information.
Women who are breastfeeding can reduce their future risk of breast cancer by postponing weaning. The total number of months a woman breastfeeds can impact lifetime risk. Breastfeeding is good to both mothers and babies.
Breast cancer in men -- a rare, but possible diagnosis
Although breast cancer in men is rare, it does happen. In the U.S., about 1% of all breast cancers occur in men. There is still a lot to learn about breast cancer in men because diagnosis is rare. Most of what is known is related to breast cancer in women. While there are some similarities between breast cancer in women and men, there appear to be some differences. If you have questions or concerns about your breast cancer risk or notice any changes in your breast, chest area or nipple, see your health care provider. Survival is highest when breast cancer is found early.
Visit these websites for more information about breast cancer in men:
Some studies have suggested that people may be at an increased risk for cancer due to several lifestyle factors. It is never too late to adopt healthy behaviors that are good for your health. The following lifestyle factors may contribute to an increased risk:
Lack of regular physical activity
Diet low in fruits and vegetables
Diet low in fiber and high in fat
Overweight and obesity
If you think you may be at risk, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to suggest ways to reduce your risk and can plan an appropriate schedule for screening.
Your health depends on good communication!
Asking questions and providing information to your health care provider can improve your care. Communication leads to better results, satisfaction, quality of care and safety.
Quality health care is a team effort, and you play an important role! One of the best ways to communicate effectively with your doctor is by asking questions. For information to help you be more involved in your health care, click here. This site provides helpful suggestions for before, during and after your doctor's visits. Click here to download a brochure that provides tips to prepare and plan your doctor's appointments.
Hot Links! View these websites for more information about breast and cervical cancer: