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Girl's Guide to Preventing, Avoiding, Treating, and Even Beating Cancer

CERVICAL CANCER: An STD in Disguise continued...

-Avoid cigarettes. The by-products of the smoke enter cervical mucus through your blood and kill antibodies, weakening your immune system and increasing the risk of lesions.
-If you and your partner are under 27 and haven't gotten the Gardasil vaccine, get it now—it's covered by most insurance plans and protects women against 75 percent of cervical cancers, and men against genital warts. Older than 27? Skip it. You'd have to pay the $360 cost yourself, and it might not be effective. Sexually active women at this age have likely already been exposed to HPV.
-Use condoms. They decrease your risk of contracting HPV (although it can still be present on skin around the genitals).

Transgene, a French biopharmaceutical company, is studying vaccinations that could eliminate a wider range of HPV infections; the Gardasil vaccine stops only the four strains that cause most cervical cancers and genital warts. The new vaccine is expected to hit the market by 2018.

60%: The proportion of women with cervical cancer who are under 50. –AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY

An analysis of U.S. oral cancer data showed that oral HPV infections, linked to oral sex, are a risk factor for throat and mouth cancers. –AMERICAN DENTAL ASSOCIATION

"A family history of cervical cancer doesn't put you at increased risk; it's not an inherited disease." –DR. JOHN P. CURTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIETY OF GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGY

"Cancer is often described as the defining plague of our generation." –THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES

COLORECTAL CANCER: The "Men's" Cancer You Could Get

Despite its reputation as a male disease, colorectal cancer rates were up 20 percent in women 30 to 34, compared with 5 percent in men, between 2000 and 2008. "Because young women usually don't get colonoscopies, their colorectal cancers often present at an advanced stage when the prognosis is worse," says Dr. Michael A. Choti, Jacob C. Handelsman professor of surgery and vice chair of the Johns Hopkins Department of Surgery. Gastrointestinal conditions like inflammatory bowel disease increase your risk by causing inflammation, which can lead to polyps, small clumps of irregular cells in the colon. If polyps are removed right away, the cancer may never form. Early interventions are 99 percent successful.

-An annual stool sample can lead to early detection. Ask your gynecologist for one, and get a rectal exam, too. She'll use her finger to check for polyps.
-See a doctor if your bowel movements change or you have constipation, diarrhea, or bleeding from the rectum lasting for longer than a few days.
-Get a colonoscopy at age 50 unless you have a family history. If so, go at 40, or when you're 10 years younger than your relative was at the age of diagnosis—whichever comes first.

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