Women's Top 5 Health Concerns
From heart disease to breast cancer to depression, WebMD gives you the inside info on why women are at high risk for these problems but may not know it.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. It is second to lung cancer as the leading cause of death for women.
Experts say the fear of breast cancer can sometimes be exaggerated, stopping women from going to their doctors for screening, or pushing women to make rash decisions about mastectomy, when it may it may not be necessary.
"There's a lot of treatment for breast cancer," assures Diane Helentjaris, MD, immediate past president of the American Medical Women's Association. "It's not a death sentence."
She urges women to keep their emotions in perspective and to educate themselves about the issues.
The American Cancer Society lists the following as risk factors for breast cancer:
- Increasing age
- Genes. Nearly 5% to 10% of breast cancer is linked to mutations in certain genes (most commonly, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes).
- Family history of the disease
- Personal history of the disease
- Race. White women have a slightly greater risk of getting breast cancer compared with African-American women. Yet African-Americans have a greater chance of dying from this disease.
- Earlier abnormal breast biopsy
- Earlier chest radiation
- Early onset of menstruation (before age 12) or menopause after age 55
- Not having children
- Medication use, such as diethylstilbestrol (DES)
- Too much alcohol
Stephen F. Sener, MD, president of the American Cancer Society, recommends controlling your weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and talking to your doctor about your risk and appropriate screening for breast cancer. He also says to keep risk factors in perspective.
"Just because your mother didn't have breast cancer, it does not mean you are immune to this problem," says Sener. At the same time, it's also important to note that some women who have one or more risk factors never get breast cancer.
Hunched backs, back pain, and frailty used to be things older women had to accept before doctors knew anything more about osteoporosis. Now, there are steps women and girls can take to avoid such problems.
Osteoporosis threatens 44 million Americans, of which 68% are women, reports the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
"Osteoporosis is largely preventable," says Mark. "The behaviors that women develop in their childhood, in their adolescence, and in their early adult years really play a significant role in the development of the disease."
That's because bodies build up most of bone mass until age 30. Then new bone stops forming and the focus is on maintenance of old bone.
It is never too late to keep bones strong and avoid fractures.
"Your body will do what it can to repair bone damage, but you have to provide the tools for it, such as adequate calcium consumption and weight-bearing physical activity," says Mark.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Female sex
- Increasing age
- Small, thin-boned frame
- Ethnicity. White and Asian women have the greatest risk.
- Family history
- Sex hormones. Infrequent menstrual cycles and estrogen loss due to menopause may increase risk.
- Diet low in calcium and vitamin D
- Medication use, particularly glucocorticoids or some anticonvulsants
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive alcohol
Talk to your doctor about your possible risk of osteoporosis, and what you can do to prevent problems.