Stay Well

National Women’s Health Week is May 8-14

American Cancer Society’s Guidelines for Women
on the Early Detection of Cancer

National Women’s Health Week and Mother’s Day are perfect opportunities to remind female friends and family members about the importance of talking to their doctor about getting tested for cancer.  Early detection is the best way for women to stay well and celebrate more birthdays.

Mammography can detect breast cancer at an early stage when treatment may be more effective. Mammography x-rays are quick, easy, and safe. In fact, mammograms use less radiation than a dentist’s x-ray. Recent evidence has confirmed that mammograms offer substantial benefit for women starting in their 40s. Women can feel confident about the benefits associated with regular mammograms for finding cancer early.  Often a woman and her doctor may not feel a lump until it is the size of a pea. But a mammogram can find cancers when they are very small, often several years before a lump or change can be felt. As women grow older, their chances of having breast cancer will increase. Almost half of all breast cancer occurs in women 65 and older; more than three-quarters of them occur in women 50 and older.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for women, regardless of race or ethnicity. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women following lung/bronchus cancer. One in eight women will develop breast cancer some time in her life. In Hawai`i, this translates to approximately 860 women diagnosed with invasive breast each year, and about 120 women will die from this disease each year. Native Hawaiian women have the highest breast cancer incidence and mortality rates compared to Hawai`i’s major racial/ethnic groups. Japanese women have the second highest incidence rates, followed by Whites. Filipino women have the lowest incidence of breast cancer, followed by Chinese women. Chinese women have the lowest mortality rate, followed by Filipino women.

On Guam, breast cancer accounts for nearly one-third of all the newly diagnosed cancer among women. Like Native Hawaiian women, Chamorro women on Guam have the highest breast cancer incidence and mortality rates.

Another disease women should talk with their doctor about is cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is one of only two cancers (colorectal is the other) that can actually be prevented through screening. An estimated 12,200 cases of invasive cervical cancer were expected in 2010. Incidence rates have decreased steadily over the past several decades. As Pap screening has become more common, pre-invasive lesions of the cervix are detected far more frequently than invasive cancer. As a result, mortality rates have declined steadily due to prevention and early detection.

Numerous studies have shown that early detection saves lives and increases treatment options. Click here for the American Cancer Society guidelines for early detection. These guidelines are for the early detection of cancer for people without symptoms. Some people are at higher risk for certain cancers and may need to have tests more frequently. Talk with your health care professional to find out how these guidelines relate to you.