Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Cancer

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 24: Cancer and Growths > Cancer


Cancer of the cervix, breast, and womb are the most common ‘women’s’ cancers. Other common cancers that both men and women get are cancer of the lung, colon, liver, stomach, mouth, and skin.

Causes of cancer

Cancer is not an infection. It is not ‘catching’ and cannot spread from one person to another.

The direct causes of most cancers are not known. But these things may make you more likely to get cancer:

  • smoking tobacco, which is known to cause lung cancer, and also increases the risk of getting most other cancers
  • certain viral infections, like HIV, hepatitis B or certain types of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
  • eating foods with too much fat or with harmful chemicals
  • taking the hormone estrogen by itself for a long time after your monthly bleeding has stopped
  • working with or living around certain chemicals (like pesticides, dyes, paints, and solvents)

Also, if others in a woman’s family (blood relatives) have had a certain kind of cancer, this may mean she is more likely to get that same kind of cancer (this is called a hereditary risk).

More Information
staying healthy

Healthy living can prevent many cancers. This means eating nutritious food and avoiding things that may cause cancer. For example:

  • Do not smoke or chew tobacco.
  • Try to avoid harmful chemicals in your home or workplace, including foods grown or preserved with them.
Cancer cells are so small, you
need a microscope to see them.

Cancer can be cured if it is found and treated early

Finding cancer early can often save a woman’s life, because she can get early treatment, before the cancer spreads. Some cancers have warning signs that show something may be wrong. Cancers that do not have early signs can often be found with screening tests, which are tests given to healthy people to see if everything is normal. Pap tests and Visual Inspections are both screening tests for cancer of the cervix. A mammogram is a screening test for early signs of breast cancer.

If you have warning signs, or a test shows something may be wrong, do not wait. Follow the advice in this chapter for finding and treating the problem as soon as possible.


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