376 Cancer and Growths
➤ Cancer is not an
infection. It is not
‘catching’ and cannot
spread from one
person to another.
Cancer cells are
so small, you need
a microscope to
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,
Causes of cancer
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).
Healthy living can prevent many cancers. This means
eating nutritious food and avoiding things that may cause cancer.
• Do not smoke or chew tobacco.
• Try to avoid harmful chemicals in your home or
workplace, including foods grown or preserved with them.
Cancer can be cured if it is found and
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
(see page 378). 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.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012