Reducing Your Risk of Cancer: Lifestyle Changes and Screening Tests

What are the warning signs of cancer?

Certain changes in your body may be signs of cancer, including:

These are not always signs of cancer, but they can be clues that something is wrong. If you notice something different in how your body looks or feels, contact your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn).

How can I reduce my overall risk of cancer?

The following lifestyle changes may reduce your risk of cancer:

What types of cancer should women be aware of?

Some common types of cancer in women include the following:

How can I reduce my risk of breast cancer?

The main risk factors for breast cancer—being a woman and getting older—cannot be controlled. But there are some things you can do that may lower your risk of breast cancer:

Breastfeeding also may lower your risk of breast cancer.

What should I know about mammograms?

Mammography screens for breast cancer. Finding breast cancer early makes it easier to treat. Women at average risk of breast cancer should be offered mammography starting at age 40. If you have not started screening in your 40s, you should begin having mammography no later than 50. Screening should be done every 1 to 2 years until at least 75.

Women at high risk of breast cancer, such as those with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, may need to have more frequent screening. You and your ob-gyn should talk together about what age to begin screening. See Mammography and Other Screening Tests for Breast Problems for more information.

How can I reduce my risk of lung cancer?

Most cases of lung cancer are caused by cigarette smoking. The best way to protect yourself from lung cancer is to not smoke. As soon as you stop smoking, your risk will begin to decrease. You also should avoid being around people who are smoking.

How can I quit smoking?

Ask your ob-gyn for advice on how to quit or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. This national network for quitting smoking will connect you to counselors in your state. These counselors can offer resources and advice about quitting.

Is there screening for lung cancer?

Yes. Women between ages 55 and 80 with a history of smoking should ask their ob-gyn or other health care professional about annual screening for lung cancer. Screening is recommended for women who are currently heavy smokers or who have quit within the past 15 years.

How can I reduce my risk of colon cancer?

Colon cancer often begins as a polyp. Routine screenings can help detect polyps before they become cancer. Removing precancerous polyps can prevent colon cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends getting a colon cancer screening test starting at age 45. These tests may include:

Tests that look through the colon with a small camera

X-ray tests

Tests that examine stool for blood or abnormal genetic material

Talk with your ob-gyn about which screening test is right for you. Also, limiting how much processed and red meat you eat and having at least 2 to 3 cups of fruits and vegetables every day may reduce your risk of colon cancer.

How can I reduce my risk of endometrial cancer?

Most cases of cancer that affect the lining of the uterus cannot be prevented. But there are a few steps you can take that may reduce your risk:

How can I reduce my risk of skin cancer?

How can I reduce my risk of ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is hard to detect, so women should be aware of changes in their bodies. See your ob-gyn if you have any of these symptoms for more than a few weeks:

There are some medical treatments that may reduce your risk.

Birth Control Pills. Using birth control pills lowers the risk of ovarian cancer. The benefit is greater if you have used the pill for several years. Talk with your ob-gyn about the possible benefits and risks of taking birth control pills.

Surgery. Women at high risk of ovarian cancer may consider surgery to remove the ovaries and . This surgery may reduce the risk of cancer. Women at high risk include those with a history of ovarian cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, or Lynch syndrome. The timing of surgery may depend on your desire to have children in the future. Women at average risk of ovarian cancer also may consider surgery to remove the fallopian tubes, if they are already having abdominal surgery for another reason.

How can I reduce my risk of cervical cancer?

What if I am older than 26 and want the HPV vaccine?

If you are older than 26, have not been vaccinated, and are at risk of a new HPV infection, you and your ob-gyn can talk about whether you need the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is approved for people through age 45.

How can I reduce my risk of vulvar cancer?

There is no screening for cancer of the vulva, so be aware of common symptoms. These include itching, burning, or abnormal skin that may be bumpy, smooth, or a different color like white, brown, or red. Precancerous changes to vulvar skin often are caused by HPV infection. You can reduce your risk of cancer of the vulva by taking the following steps:

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