STRENGTH & COURAGE: Women coming together to fight the impact of cancer



Cancer survivor Denise Wickline of Presston got to Meet Dr. Oz at a 5K run/walk on Sept. 5 to raise awareness for women's cancers.

-HEALTH-


By Caitlin Spitzer


Cancer is perhaps the scariest six-letter word in the English language. Anyone and everyone of any age can be afflicted with this frightening disease, but there’s one group of people that get hit hard with certain types of cancer: Women.


On Sept. 5, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, along with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center hosted a 5K run/walk in “a race to beat women’s cancers” at North Park.


The fundraiser, which raised more than $170,000, brought women from all over the Pittsburgh area, including cancer survivors from our own backyard.


Famous talk show personality Dr. Oz also made an appearance.Some common cancers that are specific to or most common among women include breast, ovarian, colorectal, endometrial and cervical cancers, among others.


Here is a breakdown of the most prevalent cancers affecting women:


• Breast cancer: This is the one most synonymous with women. Although men can get it too, the risk is disproportionately higher in women – men only have a 1 in 833 chance of developing it in their lifetime, while women have a 1 in 8 chance (breastcancer.org.) More than 43,000 women in the United States are expected to die in 2021 from this cancer.


Ovarian cancer: Cancer of the ovaries is specific to women and will account for more than 13,000 deaths in 2021, according to cancer.org. It’s the fifth most common cause of death from cancer among females, with about half of patients being 63 years and older. The lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is 1 in 78 according to ocrahope.org – however, the overall diagnosis rate during the past 20 years has slowly been declining.

• Colorectal cancer: Although this cancer is almost equally diagnosed in both men and women per oswellpark.org, women may be more likely to ignore the symptoms as they can mimic menstrual issues. The signs of it can include abnormalities in bowel movements, such as diarrhea and constipation. A person can also experience blood in the stool, abdominal pain and weight loss. It’s important for women not to write off any new symptoms pertaining to new bleeding, regardless of what they think the cause may be.


• Cervical and uterine cancer: These two types of women-specific cancers, although closely related, are actually quite different. Uterine cancer happens as a result of abnormal cells, whereas cervical cancer results from an infection of human papillomavirus (HPV). Prevention for the two cancers can be quite different as well. While risks of developing uterine cancer can be lowered by following a good old fashioned healthy lifestyle, cervical cancer can be warded off by HPV vaccinations, along with screenings.


Unfortunately, because the symptoms can also mimic menstrual problems, both problems may be ignored for some time before getting checked out.


It’s a scary reality that many women will develop one of the above types of cancers in their lifetime. However, proper education and preventative actions can go a long way in lowering your chances. Knowing your risks based on lifestyle and genetics is an important step towards stopping a lot of cancers – not just those above – before they become serious.


It’s also crucial for all of the men out there to support the women in their life and encourage them to take care of themselves.


With continuing research and raising awareness, we can change the course of these potentially life-changing diagnoses.


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