The Women's Health Portal is an unique and comfortable online setting, designed to focus on common health and wellness issues of college-age women. This portal is sponsored by UTC Student Health Services and we hope it can serve as a one-stop shop for information pertaining to better health in women.
What Every Woman Needs to Know about Breast and Ovarian Cancers
A little knowledge can go a long way in helping you understand your risk for breast and ovarian cancers. Once you learn your risk for these cancers, we hope you will talk to you doctor and develop a strategy to reduce your risk or detect these diseases at early, non-life-threatening stages.
Breast and Ovarian Cancer Basics
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the breast, it is called breast cancer. About 7 out of 100 women (or 7%) will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they turn 70 years old.
Ovarian cancer is far less common. About 1 out of 100 women (or 1%) will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer by age 70. Though it is less common than breast cancer, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
About 5–10% of breast and 10-15% of ovarian cancers are hereditary. These hereditary breast and ovarian cancers are caused by inherited changes in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Breast and Ovarian Cancer Basics for Young Women
While breast and ovarian cancers are most common in older women (about 89% of breast cancers occur in women older than 45 years of age), they can and do occur in younger women. There are some important differences when these cancers do affect young women:
Breast and ovarian cancers in young women are more likely to be hereditary (passed down through families and because of an inherited BRCA gene mutation).
Breast and ovarian cancers in young women are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage and are often more aggressive and difficult to treat.
Young women can face unique issues when diagnosed, including concerns about body image, fertility, finances, and feelings of isolation.
Learn More About Breast and Ovarian Cancers
Every woman can benefit from learning the risk factors and symptoms of breast and ovarian cancers.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer at Any Age
If you have one or more of these factors, it does not mean you will get breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.
Reproductive Risk Factors
Being younger (before age 12) when you first had your menstrual period
Starting menopause at a later age (after age 55)
Being older (after age 35) at the birth of your first child
Never giving birth
Never breastfeeding for a long duration (1 year plus)
Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy
Other Risk Factors
Personal history of breast cancer or some noncancerous breast diseases
Family history of breast cancer
Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (ancestors from Central or Eastern Europe)
Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast or chest
Dense breast tissue – a condition that can be diagnosed by a mammogram
Being overweight (increases risk for breast cancer after menopause)
Having a mutation in the breast cancer-related genes BRCA1 or BRCA2
Drinking alcohol (more than one drink a day)
Not getting regular exercise
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. If you have any signs that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
Pain in any area of the breast
Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer
If you have one or more of these factors, it does not mean you will get ovarian cancer. Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.
If you have:
Reached or are past middle age
Never given birth or had trouble getting pregnant
A family history of ovarian cancer (mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother)
Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (ancestors from central or Eastern Europe)
A mutation in the breast cancer-related BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes
Been diagnosed with breast, uterine, colorectal (colon), or cervical cancer or melanoma
Been diagnosed with endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body)
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. See a doctor if you have any of these signs for two weeks or longer and they are not normal for you.
Vaginal bleeding or discharge from your vagina that is not normal for you
Pain in the pelvic or abdominal area (the area below your stomach and between your hip bones)
Bloating, which is when the area below your stomach swells or feels full
Feeling full quickly while eating
A change in your bathroom habits, such as constipation, diarrhea, or having to pass urine very urgently or very often
Talk to your Doctor
The next time you visit the doctor, consider talking about what you have learned about breast and ovarian cancers.
Be sure to tell your doctor about your family history of cancer (especially breast, ovarian, fallopian tube, pancreatic, and prostate cancers) and about any other risk factors you may have.
If you need help collecting and organizing your family health history, use the U.S. Surgeon General's family health history portrait, https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/fhh-web/familyHistory/start.action. This link goes offsite
Together, you and your doctor can develop a personalized strategy to reduce your risk.
Spring Break Health and Safety Tips
Make this year's spring break memorable by having fun and helping yourself, your friends, and others stay safe and healthy.
If drinking alcohol is part of your break, remember that it can impair your judgment and actions. Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes kill someone every 31 minutes and nonfatally injure someone every two minutes. Don't drink and drive. There are plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives.
- Alcohol: Frequently Asked Questions
- Impaired Driving
- Quick Stats: Binge Drinking
- Alcohol: A Woman’s Health Issue (NIH)
- College Drinking: Changing the Culture (NIH)
You've probably been sitting most of the year working at the computer, studying, or in class. During the break, take the opportunity to start a fitness program. Do a variety of fun activities like walking, dancing, playing volleyball, swimming, and more. It doesn't need to be hard to be beneficial. Avoid injury by starting any new activity slowly. Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. Include activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and that strengthen your muscles.
Plan a successful trip.
If you are going on a trip, be prepared. Are vaccinations required? Are there special food, destination, or other things you need to consider ahead of time? If you are taking medications, do you have enough for the trip? Know what's happening en route or at your travel destination.
- Air Travel and Cruise Ships
- Travelers' Health
- What Vaccines Do You Need?
- Spring Break Travel Safety (Bureau of Consular Affairs)
Love is all around, and so are sexually transmitted diseases. The only 100% sure way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy is by not having sex. If you choose to have sex, using latex condoms and having a monogamous, uninfected partner may help lower your risk.
Women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than men. Women who experience both sexual and physical abuse are significantly more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases. Take precautions and avoid situations or persons that may place you at risk for harm.
- HIV and AIDS: Are You At Risk?
- HIV/AIDS Testing Sites
- Intimate Partner Violence
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases
- Sexual Violence
Watch your step.
There may be temptations on your break that involve different or high-risk activity. Think twice before putting yourself at risk for injury. Be sure to use appropriate safety gear before venturing out, such as seat belts, life vests, or knee pads. Remember that unintentional injuries kill more Americans in their first three decades of life than any other cause of death. In fact, injuries (both unintentional and those caused by acts of violence) are among the top ten killers for Americans of all ages.
Know the ropes.
When swimming and boating, know what's expected and what you can do to prevent injury or death for yourself and others. Know how to swim. Wear your life jacket while boating. Avoid alcoholic beverages while boating. Complete a boating education course. Participate in the vessel safety check program.
Protect yourself from the sun.
After a cold winter, it's tempting to stay in the hot sun all day. Although getting a little sun can have some benefits, excessive and unprotected sun exposure can result in premature aging, changes in skin texture, and skin cancer. Always wear sunscreen with at least SPF 15. For eye protection, wear wraparound sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV ray protection.
Having fun takes energy and fuel. Be sure to eat a variety of foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grain products. Also include low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish, and legumes. Drink lots of water and go easy on the salt, sugar, alcohol, and saturated fat. Good nutrition should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity, not smoking, and stress management.
Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. Just 20 minutes after smoking that last cigarette, your body begins a series of positive changes that continue for years. Quitting is one of the best things you can do for yourself and others.
If you or a friend has an alcohol or drug problem, has thoughts of suicide, or is in crisis for any reason, get help. Call 911 for emergency services, 800-662-4357 for substance abuse help, and 800-273-TALK (8255) for the national suicide prevention lifeline.
- Mental Health Topics (NIH)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (SAMHSA)
What to look for in a healthy relationship:
Do you think you are in a healthy relationship? Check out the RELATIONSHIP QUIZ.