breast cancer awareness pink ribbons on group of women

Every October, the pink ribbons come out to raise awareness of female breast cancer. 

Currently, more than 3.8 million women live with or beyond breast cancer in the United States. In 2023, an estimated 297,790 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and 55,720 women will be diagnosed with non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. Since the mid-2000s, invasive breast cancer in women has increased by approximately half a percent yearly.

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in women in the United States after lung cancer, and it is estimated that 43,000 deaths from breast cancer will occur in the United States in 2023. However, the number of women who have died of breast cancer has decreased by 43% since 2020, thanks to better awareness, self-exams, regular mammograms, and better treatments.

Other Women’s Cancers

Although breast cancer awareness has made us more aware of the disease in both women and men, different gynecologic cancers can strike women. Gynecologic cancers encompass all cancers of the female reproductive system, including the cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina, and vulva, and all women are at risk for these cancers. (You may not know that September was Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month, symbolized by a teal ribbon.)

According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2023, more than 106,000 women in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with gynecological cancer, and more than 32,000 will die. Each gynecological cancer has different signs, symptoms, and risk factors, which increase with age. 

Cervical Cancer: Infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV) is almost always the cause of cervical cancer. Women who do not regularly have tests to detect HPV or abnormal cells in the cervix are at increased risk of cervical cancer. 

Ovarian Cancer: There are three types of ovarian cancer in adults including ovarian epithelial cancer, which begins in the tissue covering the ovary, lining of the fallopian tube, or the peritoneum; ovarian germ cell tumors, which start in the egg or germ cells; and ovarian low malignant potential tumors, which begin in the tissue covering the ovary. 

Uterine Cancer: Uterine cancer forms in the tissues of the uterus, the organ in which a fetus develops. The two types of uterine cancer are endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. 

Endometrial Cancer forms in the tissues of the endometrium – the lining of the uterus. Obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes may increase the risk of endometrial cancer. 

Uterine Sarcoma is a rare cancer in the uterine muscles or tissues supporting the uterus. Exposure to X-rays during radiation therapy can increase the risk of uterine sarcoma. 

Vaginal Cancer: There are two types of vaginal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is more likely than squamous cell cancer to spread to the lungs and lymph nodes. Adenocarcinoma is a rare type linked to exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth. Adenocarcinomas not linked with being exposed to DES are most common in women after menopause.

Vulvar Cancer: Vulvar cancer forms in a woman’s external genitalia. Abnormal cells can grow on the surface of the vulvar skin for a long time. This condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). Because VIN can become vulvar cancer, it is crucial to get treatment. Risk factors for vulvar cancer include having VIN, HPV infection, and having a history of genital warts.

Prevention, Screening, and Treatment Saves Lives

Women’s cancers are not an automatic death sentence if caught early and treated. Monthly breast self-exams and annual mammograms help detect breast cancer early, making it more treatable and reducing the chance of it spreading to other parts of the body. According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%.

Annual gynecological exams can screen and detect cancers. But the best thing a woman can do is to take care of her body by maintaining a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. Studies show moderate and vigorous physical activity is linked with lower breast cancer risk and may protect women against post-menopausal breast cancer.

Physical activity may also help reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and diabetes. A good starting point is to do at least 30 minutes of moderate daily physical activity—brisk walking or biking. And maintaining proper diet and nutrition are very important. Avoiding food and drinks high in sugar, eating various vegetables, fruits, whole grains, peas, beans, and lentils, limiting processed meats and red meat, avoiding alcohol, and limiting salt.

The Foundation for Women’s Cancer also states that women should avoid using supplements for cancer prevention. Taking large doses of supplements may have serious side effects, especially when taken with other medications. Women should avoid taking soy pills unless approved by a doctor. In some instances, a woman may need calcium or vitamin D supplements to prevent osteoporosis (brittle bones), but this should also be prescribed by a doctor.

When Cancer Treatment is Needed

The choice of treatment depends on the type and stage of the cancer. Gynecologic cancers are treated by using one or more of the following:

Surgery may be performed through a traditional open incision in the abdomen or using a minimally invasive technique such as laparoscopy or robotic technology.

Radiation therapy is given to women whose cancers have invaded deeply into the uterine wall, cervix, or vagina or have spread to the lymph nodes.

Chemotherapy drugs used to kill cancer cells can be taken orally injected into a muscle or infused in a vein.

Receiving Infusion Cancer Treatment in a Peaceful Setting

TwelveStone Health Partners is intensifying its commitment to women’s health by offering support, resources, and advanced therapies to enhance cancer treatment. The expansion of infusion services to include cancer treatment is possible through innovative medications like Keytruda® for cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, breast cancer, and Opdivo® for kidney, bladder, and cervical cancer that are now available via infusion.

Historically, cancer medications have primarily been administered in stark and bleak hospital chemo infusion bays or specialized oncology centers.

Patients visiting TwelveStone can expect a spa-like experience featuring spacious private treatment rooms, reclining upholstered lounge chairs, complimentary Wi-Fi, television, and snacks. From a clinical standpoint, TwelveStone’s infusion treatments are administered by a compassionate, professional care team certified in Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) protocols.

“Caring for women facing a cancer diagnosis is a profound responsibility,” said Shane Reeves, chief executive officer at TwelveStone. “We are committed to providing advanced treatments and unwavering support, compassion, and hope to women who trust us with their care.”