Today marks two occasions: Mother’s Day and the beginning of National Women’s Health Week, a week devoted to educating women about how to live longer and healthier lives.
One in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. The three most common cancers among women – breast, lung and colorectal – will take the lives of over 136,370 women in this year alone.
Let’s celebrate Mother’s Day and National Women’s Health Week by talking about prevention. Listen up, ladies:
1. Don’t be shy. You need to know if your family has a history of cancer. It plays a significant role in your overall cancer risk.
2. If you’re 21 or over, it’s time for Pap tests. We know – there are plenty of things you would rather do than visit the gynecologist – but temporary discomfort is better than cervical cancer. Women between 21 and 29 should get Pap tests every 3 years and women between 30 and 65 should get Pap tests plus HPV tests every 5 years. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is also recommended for girls between the ages of 11 and 12.
3. Get to know your breasts. Breast self-exams help you know your body well enough to recognize when something has changed or isn’t right. You should also be getting clinical breast exams (CBE) by a health care professional at least once every three years in your 20s and 30s. Beginning at 40, you should have an annual CBE, or earlier depending on your cancer risk, along with annual screening mammograms and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
4. Eat well, get moving, practice sun safety and don’t smoke. Only five percent of cancers are hereditary. Lifestyle choices like eating fruits and vegetables, wearing sunscreen, getting regular exercise and not smoking can greatly reduce your cancer risk.
5. Pay it forward. Talk to your mother, aunt, grandmother, friends and every woman in your life about getting screened. The fantastic feeling that comes from taking control of your health outweighs the awkwardness.
Women are amazing. We fight to have our voices heard. We win the Pulitzer Prize. We make major scientific discoveries. We sing stellar songs. We can give birth to and play a role in shaping human beings who may grow up to change the world.
We can’t be amazing if we’re not around. Claim your health, life and body this week and encourage every woman you know to do the same.
We can do it!