What you need to know about bladder cancer

Written by Dr. Andrew James is a urologic oncologist with the UK Markey Cancer Center

Dr. Andrew James, bladder cancer

Dr. Andrew James

Bladder cancer accounts for 5 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in the U.S. with nearly 77,000 new cases annually; 1,100 people died of bladder cancer in Kentucky between 2010 and 2014.

The bladder is composed of an inner lining called the urothelium and an outer muscle that contracts to empty urine. Cancer cells that grow into tumors normally start within the urothelium. Generally speaking, these tumors are classified as low- or high-grade. Low-grade tumors may recur but have a lower chance of invading the bladder wall while high-grade tumors can behave much more aggressively, invading the muscle wall and potentially spreading to the lymph nodes and throughout the body.

Risk factors: Cigarette smoking is one of the greatest risk factors that can contribute to the development of bladder cancer. Tobacco use in Kentucky is considerably higher than the national average. Because of this, Kentucky is disproportionately affected by a significant number of people who develop bladder cancer. Other risk factors include exposure to certain industrial chemicals, and bladder cancer has been associated with people of certain professions including mechanics, painters, miners, hair dressers and truck drivers.

Caucasians are about twice as likely to develop bladder cancer when compared to African-Americans and Hispanics. Bladder cancer is also more common in men, and the risk for bladder cancer increases with age.

Symptoms: One of the most common symptoms is blood in the urine. Often, patients do not have any pain so they delay seeking evaluation from a doctor. Also, this blood may not be visible to the patient and can sometimes only be detected through specialized tests of the urine. Other symptoms such as urinary burning and frequency can mimic a urinary tract infection.

Screening/Evaluation: Currently, there are no formal bladder cancer screening recommendations; however, patients at higher risk for developing bladder cancer may benefit from tests that check for blood in the urine.

If you have symptoms or blood in the urine and are at risk for bladder cancer, your doctor may recommend a procedure called a cystoscopy. During this procedure, a small scope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder, allowing the doctor to evaluate the inside of the bladder for tumors.

Treatment: The optimal treatment for bladder cancer is different for every patient and can be influenced by the grade and stage of the original tumor, evidence of spread of cancer as seen on radiology studies such as CT scans, and certain patient specific factors. Low-grade tumors are often treated by a combination of endoscopic surgery and treatment that involves applying medication into the bladder via a catheter. High-grade, invasive tumors often require a combination of chemotherapy and surgery. Radiation treatment may be an option in select situations.

People diagnosed with bladder cancer often require life-long surveillance through imaging tests and cystoscopies due to the risk of recurrence of these tumors.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about the genitourinary cancer team at the Markey Cancer Center, where our experts specialize in detecting kidney, prostate, testicular and bladder cancer in their early stages.
  • Interested in clinical trials related to cancer treatment? Check out Markey’s clinical trials website to find a trial that might be right for you or someone you know.

Educating Kentucky on cancer, one child at a time

Standing in front of a group of rowdy young children, Eastern Kentucky native Melissa Hounshell only has to do one thing to grab their attention – bring out Mr. Gross Mouth.

Melissa Hounshell

Melissa Hounshell

Aptly named, Mr. Gross Mouth is a prop set of teeth and gums beleaguered by various medical problems caused by smoking and/or poor hygiene – rotting teeth, tongue cancer, lesions and more. The kids excitedly voice their shock and disgust as Hounshell runs through all the bad habits that might lead to such a set of teeth in real life.

“Kids love how shockingly gross ‘he’ really is,” Hounshell said. “Especially the tongue. They love to pass around the tongue!”

As the UK Markey Cancer Center’s community outreach director, Hounshell spends her days traveling the state, partnering with businesses and programs in local communities to raise awareness and educate the public about cancer risk factors and screenings.

One of her latest endeavors is a youth outreach program called Get Fit, Be Smart, Don’t Start. Using eye-catching props like Mr. Gross Mouth, it’s geared toward educating young children and encouraging them to take an interest in their parents’ health in addition to their own.

In a region where many adults avoid cancer screenings out of fear of what they might find, Hounshell notes the importance of getting children involved.

“We feel like it’s really important to work with children in the state,” she said. “What we’re really trying to do is reach that younger population and change that mindset, to make them understand the importance and value of health and wellness throughout their lives, not just when they’re 40, 50, 60 years old.”

Kids from the Winchester YMCA examine several of the health-related props that Hounshell brings along to her visits.

Overall, the youth program emphasizes a healthy lifestyle encompassing a good diet, staying active, avoiding smoking and tobacco products, and even the dangers of distracted driving. But considering Kentucky’s No. 1 ranking in both cancer incidence and mortality in the country, the likelihood of these children having some connection to cancer in their family is high, and Hounshell hopes her message of prevention sinks in.

“I encourage kids many times to go and talk with their parents or grandparents about either stopping smoking or getting mammograms or colonoscopies, because so many times a child can ask someone to do something and they’ll do it,” Hounshell said. “Whereas if a physician says, ‘It’s time for your mammogram,’ the patient might ignore it. But if her granddaughter comes and says, ‘You know, you really need to have a mammogram,’ she may listen.”

A personal perspective

Hounshell’s passion for cancer education comes from a very personal place. An only child, she saw both parents suffer from cancer, with her father – a smoker – succumbing to lung cancer just 11 weeks after diagnosis. Her mother, a nonsmoker, later battled breast cancer, celebrating six years of survival this month.

“This is very personal to me, it’s not just a job,” Hounshell said. “That’s why I work at Markey. Because I understand – I truly understand – the value of a wonderful cancer center, but I also understand how harsh cancer can be.”

Markey’s outreach program as a whole has one overarching goal: to reduce cancer rates in the state. Though it will take more time and a lot of data to see the program’s overall success, Hounshell says every small positive anecdote that gets back to her keeps her driven: a middle-schooler who saw how much tar goes into the body from a half pack of cigarettes a day and vowed to ask her grandmother to quit; an older man who picked up a free Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) at a Markey screening event that led to the discovery and treatment of a pre-cancerous polyp; the countless young children who have pledged to ask their parents not to text and drive.

“It’s not necessarily about the big numbers, but a change in mentality,” Hounshell said. “It’s more about the long-term impact, maybe in 10 years we look back and can say, ‘These kids have helped change the way we think about cancer.'”

Check out our Q&A with Melissa about colon cancer screening.

Much of Hounshell’s travels have taken her to the eastern half of the state, where the cancer rates are particularly dire. However, with the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network growing and expanding into Western Kentucky, she’s prepared to travel anywhere in Kentucky to improve cancer education and offer information on screenings to those who need it.

“I work with a lot of affiliate partners, but you don’t have to be an affiliate with our screening and outreach program,” she said. “I’ll partner with anybody as long as they’re passionate about getting Kentuckians screened for cancer.”


Next steps:

UK Markey Cancer Center joins Cancer Moonshot

Cancer Moonshot Summit at Markey spurs inspired conversation

World-class experts, cancer survivors and advocates joined forces at the UK Markey Cancer Center on Wednesday to contribute to the nationwide Cancer Moonshot Summit conversation.

Markey hosted an official Cancer Moonshot Summit in conjunction with the national Moonshot Summit held in Washington, D.C. Markey was one of 32 American Association of Cancer Institute centers to host a summit. Across the nation, more than 270 groups hosted their own events and receptions related to the Cancer Moonshot initiative.

For more, check out USA Today’s article on the Markey Moonshot Summit conversation.

Established by President Barack Obama during the 2016 State of the Union address and led by Vice President Joe Biden, the goal of the Cancer Moonshot is to double the rate of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care over the next five years and to ultimately end cancer.

“The Moonshot cannot be achieved by one person, one organization, one discipline or even one collective approach,” Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday. “Solving the complexities of cancer will require the formation of new alliances to defy the bounds of innovation and accelerate the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately a cure. It’s going to require millions of Americans speaking up and contributing what they’re able. That’s what the Cancer Moonshot Summit is all about.”

At Markey, more than 100 people attended the summit, including cancer physicians, researchers, staff, patients, caregivers, philanthropists and others who play a role in cancer care. Attendees were divided into 11 groups to facilitate discussions on barriers to cancer research and care, ultimately developing a list of specific problems and suggested solutions to send on to the White House.

“This has just been a phenomenal event,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the UK Markey Cancer Center. “Everybody coming together to talk about the problems we now face in cancer care and how we deliver cancer care is just really unique. Here at Markey, we wanted to look broadly at the initiatives of the Cancer Moonshot, but we want to tailor it to some unique challenges we face here in Kentucky.”

 


Next steps:

Team "Sun Shall Shine" is ready to "Survive the Night" to benefit cancer awareness.

UK HealthCare athletes ready to ‘Survive the Night’ to raise cancer awareness

In most work environments, teambuilding exercises usually don’t require actual physical activity. But for the UK HealthCare employees participating in this weekend’s second Survive the Night Triathlon, bonding will form over 140.7 miles of swimming, biking and running through the night into the early morning.

Developed by Markey Cancer Center radiation oncologist Dr. Jonathan Feddock, an avid triathlete, the event is a relay that allows up to 10 people to take on different sections of the race, playing to their personal strengths. Survive the Night is a part of a two-day bicycling event happening this weekend. All proceeds will benefit cancer research and programs at the UK Markey Cancer Center and the pediatric oncology clinic at Kentucky Children’s Hospital..

Team Running on Vapor, formed by nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologists who work in the brachytherapy suite with Feddock, is taking a second go-round in Survive the Night after competing last year. Team members Robbie Campbell and John Fletcher competed last year and say they’re looking forward to a repeat performance.

“We had a really good time last year,” Campbell said. “We developed a lot of camaraderie as a department.”

“We don’t really see each other until lunch or a break,” Fletcher added. “With this event, you got to see everyone in a completely different environment.”

Inspiration to others

Pharmacy resident Beth Cady, captain of Team Sun Shall Shine, heard about the event through the Bluegrass Cycling Club. As a former high school teacher and coach, and an athlete herself, Cady decided to gather a team of pharmacy specialists from the Markey Cancer Center, Transplant Center, and other parts of UK HealthCare to enter the competition this year. Cady says her team has two main objectives going into the race.

“Our goals are to complete something none of us have ever done, and also to just be an inspiration to others,” Cady said. “We’re just looking to have fun and spread a positive message.”

Team Sun Shall Shine’s inspiration comes from someone very close to the UK pharmacy community: Shane Winstead, who served as a pharmacy specialist for UK HealthCare for more than 20 years and continues to mentor young pharmacists at the university. Diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in January 2015, Shane’s positivity in light of a dire situation has rallied everyone around her.

“Her personality, her positive attitude, and her zest for life have been very infectious,” Cady said. “She’s been a driving force in our department. We were looking for some way to honor her, but also to exemplify the life she’s been living for the past two years.”

Cady’s group also has a special secret weapon. To further energize their team, Shane’s daughter Madison — an elite swimmer who will enter UK as a freshman this fall — will swim a few laps at the beginning of the race. Due to her training for the Olympic trials, the swimming will be more symbolic than competitive, but it’s one more way the team is honoring Shane and showing their strength as not just co-workers, but as family — or “pharmily,” as they affectionately call themselves.

“So Madison’s going to swim a few laps followed by a few of us not-so-qualified swimmers,” Cady said. “But we’ve got some triathletes on our team. We’re not necessarily looking to win, but we feel like we’re gonna do a darn good job out there.”

Standing up for Markey patients

Beginning this Friday at 7:30 p.m., teams Running on Vapor and Sun Shall Shine will take to the pool on UK’s campus alongside 22 other teams to kick off the Survive the Night Triathlon.

While the teams trickle in to the finish line at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday morning, the Lexington Cancer Foundation is also hosting its annual Roll for the Cure bike event at Commonwealth to raise awareness and funds for cancer care. Participants can choose the length of their ride: 95, 50, 35, or 10 miles through Kentucky horse farms, or a short Family Fun ride around the stadium. The longer rides will include rest stops at Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve.

Knowing that this event was created by a Markey doctor and directly benefits the patients at the cancer center is another reason Campbell felt compelled to compete again this year.

“It’s really motivating to see Dr. Feddock put himself out there for his patients,” Campbell said. “It feels like we’re all taking some ownership of the hospital.”

“I’m sure everyone knows at least someone in their life who has been affected by cancer,” Cady said. “So we wanted to raise awareness, potentially fundraise, and just do something good.”

Appalachian Research Day shows community-based health care efforts

For many UK researchers who study health in Appalachia, the Center of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) is an indispensable partner in conducting community-based research. The Center, located in Hazard, connects researchers with the local community and provides necessary infrastructure, from conference rooms to a team of community health workers, called Kentucky Homeplace, who engage participants and gather data.

This week, researchers shared the findings from these community-based studies at the second annual Appalachian Research Day.

“Today is an opportunity for people who do research with the Center to report back about their findings, and see what we can come up with together to better our lives here in Appalachia,” said Fran Feltner, director of the CERH.

Addressing Appalachian health issues

Rural Appalachian communities in Eastern Kentucky experience some of the nation’s most concerning health disparities, including elevated rates of obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, depression, and cancer incidence and death. Residents of Appalachia might also face challenges in accessing health care, such as distance from providers, lack of insurance, or socioeconomic barriers.

Community-based research is essential in addressing disproportionate rates of poor health by collaboratively identifying problems and developing shared solutions that are a good fit for communities. For this type of research to succeed, it must begin at the local level, built upon the foundation of relationships with individuals, neighborhoods and groups who have common questions and concerns. In Eastern Kentucky, the CERH has enabled community-based studies since 1990, when it was founded to improve health through education, service, and research.

In 2015, the CERH launched Appalachian Research Day as an opportunity to share and discuss research findings with the communities that were involved in the studies. Feltner describes the day as an invitation for everyone involved in community health research to “come sit on the porch” of the Center and talk about their work and ongoing needs. More than 100 researchers, coordinators, community health workers, community advisory board members, students, and staff participated this year, with four podium presentations and 13 poster presentations.

“These research findings drive new and exciting health initiatives that are transforming lives across our rural Appalachian region,” Feltner said.

Researching change

The presen­tations focused on community research related to healthy lifestyles, depression, lung cancer screening, drug use and risk behaviors in Appalachia.

Mark Dignan, professor in the UK College of Medicine and director of the UK Prevention Research Center, discussed his work with faith-based communities to study energy balance, obesity and cancer in Appalachia.  According to the CDC, the national obesity rate in adults is about 29 percent, while in Appalachian states the rate is 31-35 percent. Dignan was particularly interested in how to help people re-engineer their lives to include more physical activity.

“When you do research in the community, hopefully you’ll make change that will be lasting,” he said.

Rates of depression are also higher in Appalachia than the rest of the country. For Appalachian women, the rate of depression is four times higher than the national rate. They are also less likely to receive adequate treatment, according to Claire Snell-Rood, PhD, who shared her research on adapting treatment options for rural settings where the traditional mental health system is both inappropriate and inadequate.

“This research focuses on how to adapt evidence-based programs to address not only limited treatment options in rural areas, but the substantial social and health challenges that impede Appalachian women from obtaining the care they need,” she said.

Snell-Rood worked with Kentucky Homeplace community health workers to conduct interviews with women, and she is currently adopting a collaborative, peer-based practice to support rural individuals in developing their own processes for wellbeing.

Roberto Cardarelli, DO, MPH, professor and chief of community medicine in the UK College of Medicine, also presented his research project, the Terminate Lung Cancer study, which aims to understand the knowledge and attitudes of lung cancer screening among high-risk rural populations. Kentucky’s lung cancer mortality rate dramatically exceeds the national lung cancer mortality rate, with 73.2 deaths per 100,000 in Kentucky versus 49.5 nationally. Cardarelli and his team conducted focus groups in order to develop an effective campaign to promote lung cancer screening in the region.

“We like to focus on research that’s important to communities, and we couldn’t find a more important topic than tobacco cessation and lung cancer screening,” he said.

The final presentation of the day addressed drug use and prescription opioid use in Eastern Kentucky. Michele Staton-Tindall, PhD, associate professor in the UK College of Social Work, conducted research in jails to learn about drug use and health-related risk behaviors among rural women in Appalachia. She said that rates of drug use are “alarmingly high” in this area of Appalachia, with many users injecting.

“Injection is the preferred route of administration, which is coupled with increased public health risks including HCV and HIV,” she said.

Solving problems together

The event was supported in part by the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science, which aims to accelerate discoveries that improve human health, with particular focus on the Appalachian region.

For Feltner, a nurse who has worked in rural health for 35 years, Appalachian Research Day represents the best qualities of the place she calls home.

“What I love most about Appalachia is the fellowship we have together, as neighbors and friends, working together to solve problems.”

Weekend of cycling events reflects doctor’s passion for Markey

For Dr. Jonathan Feddock, cycling isn’t just a hobby – it’s a way to save lives.

Dr. Jonathan Feddock

Dr. Jonathan Feddock

Feddock is a radiation oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center and also an avid triathlete and cyclist. Two years ago, Feddock combined his passions by competing in the Louisville Ironman competition while simultaneously raising more than $142,000 for patient care and research at Markey.

Ignited by the success of his personal fundraising efforts, Feddock wanted to do even more. Last year, he partnered with Markey to host the Healthiest Weekend in Lexington, a two-day event promoting healthy lifestyles that also raised money for cancer care at UK. The weekend event included the first-ever Survive the Night Triathlon, an overnight team relay covering 140.7 combined miles of swimming, biking and running.

“After seeing the success I had raising money racing in triathlons, a lot of people expressed an interest in helping raise money for Markey in a similar way,” Feddock said.

This year, the Survive the Night Triathlon is back, and Feddock is working with Markey and the Lexington Cancer Foundation to once again support patient care, research and outreach at UK through a weekend of cycling.

Survive the Night begins Friday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium on the UK campus. Registration is $500 per team.

Following Survive the Night, the Lexington Cancer Foundation hosts the Roll for the Cure bike event on June 18. Participants can choose the length of their ride: 10, 35, 50 or 95 miles through Kentucky horse farms, or a short Family Fun ride around Commonwealth Stadium. The longer rides will include rest breaks at Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve distilleries. Registration for the longer rides is $75 and the Family Fun ride is $10.

All proceeds from Survive the Night and Roll for the Cure will benefit cancer research and programs at the Markey and the pediatric oncology clinic at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Feddock said participating in either event is an easy way to make a big difference.

“Every single dollar we raise helps,” he said. “By participating in our events, you’ll be making a huge impact on cancer care for women, men and children across Kentucky.”


Next steps:

Before you head outside, think about your skin

Race day hat? Check. Bowtie? Check. Sunscreen? Check.

Whether you’re heading out to Keeneland this weekend or just spending time outside enjoying the spring weather, make sure sunscreen is a part of your wardrobe.

Even when temperatures are mild or skies are overcast, a day outside can still result in sunburned skin if you don’t take the proper precautions. Using sunscreen is the first step. It protects you from sunburn and limits suntan by reflecting ultraviolet rays.

Before you go outside, take a look at our tips for protecting your skin:

  • A sunscreen with SPF of 20 to 30 offers substantial protection against sunburns and usually prevents tanning.
  • The phrase “broad spectrum” on a product’s label means the sunscreen filters out ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation exposure. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and are mostly responsible for premature aging and skin cancer. UVB rays affect the surface of the skin and cause sunburn. Be sure to pick a sunscreen that protects against both.
  • People with fair skin, especially those with blond or red hair, should be especially cautious. They are at the greatest risk of developing skin cancer, but all people are at some risk.
  • Use sunscreen on all exposed areas of skin. Don’t forget easily overlooked areas such as the rims of the ears, lips, back of the neck and feet. And if you don’t have a full head of hair, don’t forget the top of your head, either.
  • Make sure to use sunscreen liberally and rub it in well. The recommended dose is one ounce per full-body application (about the amount in a shot glass).
  • Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors. It needs time to absorb into the skin.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you’re sweating.
  • Seek shade if you need to, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are at their strongest.
  • Your race day hat and sunglasses aren’t just fashion statements: They can also help protect your face from excessive sun.

Next steps:

Colon cancer screening

Should you be screened for colon cancer?

“Challenge accepted” is a series highlighting the work the UK Markey Cancer Center is doing to fight cancer in Kentucky and Appalachia. To learn more about how we’re helping Kentuckians live longer, fuller and healthier lives, read the latest Markey Cancer Center Annual Report. In this entry, we sit down with Melissa Hounshell, Markey community outreach director, to discuss the importance of colorectal cancer screening.

Who should be screened for colorectal cancer?

Melissa Hounshell

Melissa Hounshell

Hounshell: In general, colon cancer screenings begin at age 50 and continue until age 75. If there is a family history, doctors recommend you start earlier. If there are any questions, you should always ask your family physician. There are several different types of screenings available, including fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

Screening can catch cancer early, when it’s at its most treatable, and it can also prevent the disease by identifying abnormal growths called polyps, which can turn into cancer later on.

What is a FIT and what are its benefits?

Hounshell: FIT (fecal immunochemical test) is a high-sensitivity stool test that you can do at home. It’s used to test the stool for blood that cannot be seen with the naked eye (called occult blood). Once completed, the FIT is then mailed to a lab, where you will get a positive or negative result. If it’s positive, a follow-up colonoscopy will be recommended.

A FIT is often used to detect bleeding in the digestive tract when there are no other signs or symptoms of a digestive problem. Blood in the stool can be caused by a number of conditions, including colon cancer. It is important to remember that a FIT should be repeated each year.

How can people sign up for a screening or learn more about FIT tests?

Hounshell: Most primary care doctors should offer FIT testing. I always recommend starting with your personal physician. They know your health and your family history. Markey also has FITs available at several of our screening events throughout the year. For more information, please call 859-323-2034.

Why is screening for colorectal cancer so important, especially in Kentucky?

Hounshell: Colon cancer is largely a preventable disease. Kentucky has historically ranked very high in incidence rates. However, through the efforts of many organizations and advocates all across Kentucky in the past 15 years, we have seen a dramatic decrease in incidence rates and deaths.

These screenings work! We just have to continue our efforts to educate folks on the importance of getting screened.

How does colorectal cancer screening fit into Markey’s outreach mission?

Hounshell:  I talk about colon cancer screening every place I go. Much of my time is spent traveling the state and talking with people about the importance of cancer screenings, education, and general health and wellness. It is extremely important to open the dialogue with folks and to make sure they understand what types of screenings are available to them. I consider it an honor to meet so many good people and help them better understand screenings.


Next steps:

 

Tune in! Markey Cancer Center experts featured on tonight’s PBS NewsHour

Update, March 28: If you missed Friday’s report on PBS, be sure to check out the video below.

Watch PBS NewsHour tonight at 7 p.m. for a special report on cancer in Kentucky and Appalachia. The story features experts from the UK Markey Cancer Center who work on the front lines of fighting the disease in the poorest parts of the Commonwealth.

Markey’s Dr. Tom Tucker and Dr. Susanne Arnold sat down with NewsHour to discuss the role poverty plays in cancer incidence and how a lack of resources in some parts of Kentucky has contributed to the nation’s highest cancer rates.

Tune in to Kentucky Educational Television tonight at 7 p.m. to learn more about what we’re doing to help Kentuckians live longer, fuller, healthier lives.


Next steps:

 

Celebrate International Women's Day with UK HealthCare's health tips.

Women, take charge of your health

In our society, women often care for everyone else – parents, spouses, children – first and neglect themselves. Looking after yourself isn’t selfish – it’s the best way to keep on doing what you do for those around you.

In honor of International Women’s Day today, check out our list of tips that will help you be your healthiest:

  • Understand recommended cancer screenings for your age. Breast, skin, lung and gynecologic cancers are some of most common types affecting women, and regular screening can help catch the disease when it’s most treatable. Check out the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for early cancer screening.
  • Get the HPV vaccine. If you’re 26 or younger, ask your doctor about getting an HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of human papilloma virus that most typically cause cervical cancer.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor for cancer and heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women in America.
  • Listen to your heart. Women’s hearts are different from men’s in certain ways, which can affect the way women develop heart disease and experience heart attacks. Check out the top 10 things to know about women’s heart health from Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of the UK Gill Heart Institute Women’s Heart Health Program.
  • Protect your skin by using sunscreen and avoiding indoor tanning. Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds can cause melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
  • Stay active. Regular exercise, along with a healthy diet, can lower your risk for several types of cancer and reduce your risk for heart disease. Being overweight can increase your risk of a heart attack and other heart complications.
  • Think about your mental health, too. Some mental illnesses are more common in women or affect women in different ways than men. Conditions such as anxiety, eating disorders and postpartum depression can significantly impact your life. The National Institute of Mental Health has more information specifically for women, but simple things like staying in touch with family and friends, exercising, and getting good sleep can boost your mental health. If you’re unable to shake your symptoms or they keep coming back, talk with your doctor.
  • Be a role model for health. Make sure you’re setting good examples for the girls and young women in your life. Practice healthy eating habits at home and encourage exercise. Encourage the teenage girls in your life to get the HPV vaccination. And for teenage girls especially, emotional support is important. Be available to talk with young women in your life who may be experiencing increased anxiety or depression as they undergo a time of physical and personal growth.

Next steps: