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Women and Cancer

Ann Witt, M.D., and Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D.

After heart disease, cancer is the most common cause of death for women in the United States. Approximately, 678,060 women will be diagnosed with cancer in 2007.  Breast cancer will affect a larger proportion of women, but a higher percentage of women will die from lung cancer (see Table 1).  In fact, lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in women (see Table 2).

Table 1

2007 estimate prevalence of new cancer cases in women (American Cancer Society 2007 Cancer Facts and Figures) 

Breast

26%

Lung and bronchus

15%

Colon and rectum

11%

Uterine

6%

Ovarian (8th highest)

3%

Cervical cancer

Rare

Table 2

Predicted cause of cancer death in Women in 2007 (American Cancer Society 2007 Cancer Facts) 

Lung and Bronchus

26%

Breast

15%

Colon and rectum

10%

Ovarian

6%

Uterine

3%

Cervical

<1%

 

Cancer screening is one way to improve the outcomes of breast, cervical and colon cancers. Diagnosing cancer in the earlier stages of the disease increases the likelihood that treatment will be successful. Yet, women participate in cancer screening at a variable level; in 2004, approximately 50% of women over 50 had colon cancer screening, 74% of women over 40 were current on mammogram screening, and 84% of women over 18 had regular pap smears.