10 Cancer Symptoms Women Shouldn't Ignore
You don't need to panic, but you shouldn't assume these signs are "nothing," either. Plus three ways to minimize your risk.
The Bottom Line continued...
"Don't be afraid," she says. If you notice something different about your body, get it checked out. Most likely it's not cancer, but if it is, she says, "cancer is treatable, often it's curable, and clearly having a diagnosis earlier will allow you to have the most benefit possible from current health care advances and to live as full a life as prior to a diagnosis."
Caryl Engstrom agrees. "It's all about early diagnosis. At the stage I was diagnosed, it was completely treatable," she says. Getting confirmation she had breast cancer was "the worst part." The treatment -- a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation -- "wasn't that difficult," she adds. "I found it all very manageable."
Today, two years after being diagnosed and treated, Engstrom is in remission, despite having what turned out to be a very fast-growing cancer -- and, more important, despite recent screenings that revealed nothing amiss. For her, picking up the phone right away was the best thing she could do for her health -- and her life.
3 Ways to Minimize Your Cancer Risk
Know thyself. Make a family health tree. "Know your family history," says cancer researcher Beth Y. Karlan, MD. "Know what you're at risk for," so you can focus on screenings and preventions. Moreover, you're just as likely to inherit your risk of breast and ovarian cancer from your father's side of the family as from your mom's, she adds.
Check your BMI. Make it a habit to know your body mass index, and keep it under 25 -- the dividing line for being overweight, says Karlan. Regular exercise can lower blood estrogen levels, which helps cut your risk of breast cancer.
Schedule screenings. "Make sure you get a colonoscopy if you're 50 or older," says obstetrics and gynecology professor Carolyn Runowicz, MD. And schedule regular Pap smears (starting three years after first intercourse or no later than age 21) as well as mammograms after 40, according to the American Cancer Society.