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Cancer Focus/Facts

Cervical Cancer
Colorectal Cancer
Oral Cancer
Prostate Cancer
Skin Cancer/Melanoma
Breast Cancer

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer affects a woman’s cervix, which connects the uterus to the vagina.  Cervical cancer can initially appear as dysplasia, or a change in the type of cells that line the cervix.  This early change in cervical cells can be detected on a Pap Smear, before they become cancerous.


Who is at Risk for Developing Cervical Cancer?

  • Women who begin having sexual intercourse, or sexual contact at a young age.
  • Women who have had many sexual partners, or whose partner has had many partners.
  • Women infected with Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Women with other sexually transmitted infections (i.e. Chlamydia).
  • Women with a family or personal history of cervical cancer.
  • Women who have a compromised immune system, due to another condition or infection (i.e. HIV).
  • Women who smoke tobacco products.
  • Women who are overweight and/or have a diet low in fruits and vegetables.


Is there Any Way to Prevent Cervical Cancer?

  • Annual Pap tests can detect abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix, before they become cancerous.
  • Get vaccinated against HPV.  Gardasil has been approved by the FDA for use in girls and women ages 9-26 and in men.  Cevarix has been approved by the FDA for use in girls and women ages 10-25.
  • Employ safe sexual practices.  Using condoms, delaying first sexual intercourse and limiting the number of sexual partners are all ways of reducing exposure to HPV.
  • Have a healthy lifestyle.  Eliminating tobacco products, maintaining a healthy weight and eating healthily are ways of preventing cervical cancer.


Where Can I Find More Information?

  • Visit the websites for the HPV vaccines at www.gardasil.com and www.cervarix.com.
  • Visit Planned Parenthood’s website for more information about HPV and other sexually transmitted infections at:www.plannedparenthoodnj.org.
  • View the American Cancer Society’s Overview Guide to Cervical Cancer here.
  • If you are uninsured or underinsured and need a Pap test, contact your local NJCEED office for assistance by calling 1-800-328-3838 or by visiting the NJCEED website here.

Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control, and Planned Parenthood

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the cancer of the colon or rectum.  This type of cancer usually begins as a polyp (or bump) in the lining of either the colon or rectum. Some polyps are benign and never become cancerous.  However, other polyps slowly become cancerous as they grow through the many layers of the colon/rectum and into surrounding tissue.


Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

No one knows why, exactly, certain people get colorectal cancer.  However, many studies have identified behavioral and environmental factors that increase or decrease an individual’s risk of developing colorectal cancer.  These factors include:

  • Age – as an individual ages, the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases.
  • Family History – an individual whose close relative (brother, mother, etc.) has had colorectal cancer is at an increased risk of developing the disease.
  • Personal History – an individual who has already had a colorectal cancer is at an increased risk of getting the disease again.
  • Personal Health – individuals who have a history of large or numerous polyps have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.  Also, individuals with diabetes, and individuals certain bowel conditions such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis have an increased risk of having colorectal cancer.
  • Poor Diet – studies suggest that a diet high in fiber and in fresh fruits and vegetables protects an individual from developing colorectal cancer.
  • Physical Activity – studies suggest that maintaining a healthy weight, especially in adulthood, lowers an individual’s risk of having colorectal cancer.


 What Are The Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

There are frequently no or few symptoms of colorectal cancer.  Some of the possible symptoms include:

  • A change in bowel habits – increased diarrhea, constipation, or a feeling of being unable to empty the bowels.
  • Bright or dark red blood in stool.
  • Abdominal discomfort – bloating, cramping, and gas pain.
  • Unintended weight loss.
  • Unexplained fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Please understand that many other health problems can cause the same symptoms that are listed above. Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. However, anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor so that any problem can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible!  Please remember that early stages of cancer usually do not cause pain. It is important not to wait to feel pain before seeing a doctor.


How Can Colorectal Cancer Be Prevented?

  • Maintain a healthy body weight through diet and exercise.
  • Increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and reduce fat and alcohol consumption.
  • Stop using tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars and chew.
  • Discuss colorectal cancer screening methods with your family physician.


How is Colorectal Cancer Detected?

There are many ways to screen an individual for colorectal cancer.  Regular screening is important because it can detect disease in a person who may not have any symptoms and may have an earlier stage disease.  Individuals with early-stage disease tend to have a better prognosis than those with later-stage disease.  Certain types of screenings find polyps before and after they have become cancerous.  Other types of screenings only find cancer in individuals.


Screenings that Find Benign and Malignant Polyps

Flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, and double contrast barium enema are all types of screenings that detect cancerous and non-cancerous polyps.  Flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are the most commonly performed screening types:

  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy – During this procedure, a thin, flexible rod is inserted to the lower half of the colon through the rectum.  A light on the end of the rod enables the physician to examine half the colon for polyps.  Small polyps are removed during a flexible sigmoidoscopy; however the patient will need to revisit the doctor for a colonoscopy to examine the other half of the colon.  Very little preparation and recovery time is needed for this type of screening.
  • Colonoscopy – This procedure is similar to a flexible sigmoidoscopy, however the rod is much longer, enabling the physician to visualize the entire colon.  During a colonoscopy, polyps are removed and abnormal-appearing areas are biopsied.  Colonoscopies typically take longer than flexible sigmoidoscopies and require more recovery time.


Screenings that Find Cancer

Fecal Occult Blood Tests (FOBT) and Fecal Immunochemical Tests (FIT) are types of non-invasive tests that detect blood in fecal matter, an indicator of colorectal cancer.  These blood tests do not detect the presence of polyps and individuals with non-cancerous bowel conditions may test positive.  Individuals who test positive for blood in the feces may be sent for a screening colonoscopy.  Many people prefer this type of screening because they can do the test in private, at home, and it is non-invasive.


Where Can I Find More Information?

  • View the American Cancer Society’s Colorectal Cancer Overview here.
  • Visit the American Dietetic Association’s website for information about a healthy diet and cancer prevention here.
  • Visit the C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition website for information on research and advocacy here.
  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov
  • Visit the National Cancer Institute website at www.cancer.gov


Source: American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control

Oral Cancer

The term “oral cancer” refers to cancers, which begin in the mouth, tongue, lip, tonsils and throat.  As the cancer develops and grows, it invades and damages neighboring areas of the oral cavity and oropharynx.  Each area of the oral cavity has its own type of oral cancer and the prognosis differs from location to location. Like with all cancers, early detection is linked to a good prognosis and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an important prevention technique.


Who is at Risk for Oral Cancer

  • Tobacco users – including users of smokeless tobacco products- have a much greater risk of developing an oral cancer.
  • Individuals who consume and/or abuse alcohol have an increased risk of developing oral cancers.
  • Current research is suggesting that individuals infected with the human papillomaviruses (HPV) have an increased risk of developing oral cancers.  Certain strains of HPV are also risk factors for developing cervical cancer in women.
  • Individuals who spend a lot of time in the sun have an increased risk of developing oral cancer, specifically cancer on the lips.
  • Individuals with a compromised immune system may be at risk of getting an oral cancer.


How can Oral Cancers be Detected and Prevented?

One of the most effective ways to prevent oral cancer is to abstain from alcohol and tobacco products.  Consumption of these products is responsible for most oral cancer cases.  They are also linked to increase risk of other cancers such as colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and esophageal cancer.

Oral cancer can be detected by a dentist, dental hygienist, doctor, or nurse during a routine visit.  If symptoms are present, visiting an ear nose and throat (ENT) doctor may be necessary for further testing using fiber optic scopes, mirrors, and lights.


What are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

The most common symptoms of oral cancer are mouth sores and mouth pain that does not subside.  Other symptoms or oral cancers include:

  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, and speaking.
  • Lumps in the cheek, tongue, and throat.
  • Jaw pain, discomfort, and swelling.
  • Weight loss.
  • Bad breath that does not subside.
  • White or red patches in the mouth and throat that do not go away.

These are all symptoms of conditions other than cancer, however they all warrant further exam by a physician.


Where Can I Find More Information?

  • View the American Cancer Society’s Detailed Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer Guide here.
  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control website on oral cancer here.
  • Visit the National Cancer Institute oral cancer home page here.
  • Visit the Oral Cancer Foundation website here.


Source: American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a type of cancer found in the prostate gland of men.  The prostate gland is located below the bladder and is responsible for producing the semen that protects sperm during reproduction.  Prostate cancer develops slowly and often proceeds undetected.  In some men, prostate cancer develops so slowly that it never invades other parts of the body and poses little threat.  For many men, however, their cancer invades the rest of the prostate and, untreated, will invade other areas of the body.


Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

  • Age – a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer increases as he ages, especially after the age of 50.
  • Race – African-American men have an increased incidence of prostate cancer compared to men of other races.  Prostate cancer is found at similar levels in Hispanic and white men, while it is found less frequently in Asian men.
  • Nationality – North America and Northwestern Europe have higher rates of prostate cancer compared to other continents and regions.
  • Diet – Men with a diet high in fat and red meat tend to have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer
  • Fitness – Men who have a healthy body weight and men who exercise regularly tend to have a lower risk of having advanced disease.


Prostate Cancer Symptoms

Many of the symptoms of prostate cancer involve a man’s ability to urinate normally.  These symptoms could also be indicative of conditions besides prostate cancer.  Speak with your physician if you’re experiencing these symptoms:

  • Inability to urinate
  • Frequency, or the need to urinate more often than normal
  • Weakened urinary stream, or a stream that starts and stops
  • Nocturia, or needing to wake up in the middle of the night to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Lower back pain, pelvic pain, or pain in the upper thighs


How Can Prostate Cancer Be Detected?

Depending on the symptoms a man is experiencing as well as his personal medical history, a physician may perform one of the following tests to detect prostate cancer:

  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) – the prostate gland backs into the rectum.  With prostate cancer, a man’s prostate can become enlarged.  In a DRE, the physician inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to see if the prostate is enlarged or if it has an abnormal texture.
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test – PSA can be produced by the prostate at a higher level when cancer is present.  This test measures the amount of PSA in the blood stream.  A high PSA level does not indicate that an individual definitely has prostate cancer, and further evaluation may be necessary.  Conversely, a low PSA level does not indicate an absence of prostate cancer.  If a man has a low PSA, but also has other symptoms, further evaluation may be warranted.
  • Transrectal Ultrasound (TRUS) – During this type of ultrasound, the probe is inserted into the rectum.  Through the use of a computer, an image of the prostate is produced which a physician can evaluate for abnormalities.



How Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?

No single cause of prostate cancer has been found yet.  However, management of risk factors like weight, diet, and physical activity can reduce a man’s risk of developing late stage of the disease.  Screening for the disease early also enables the disease to be caught at an early stage.  The American Cancer Society recommends that men with a low risk (no family history) of prostate cancer should speak with their physicians when they reach the age of 50.  Men with an elevated risk (limited family history) of prostate cancer should begin speaking with their physicians about screening when they reach the age of 45.  Men with a very high risk (extensive family history) of developing prostate cancer should speak with their physicians about screening when they reach the age of 40.


Where Can I Find More Information?

  • View the American Cancer Society’s Prostate Cancer Overview guide here.
  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control website here.
  • Visit the National Cancer Institute website here.
  • Visit the Prostate Cancer Foundation website here.


Source: American Cancer Society

Skin Cancer / Melanoma

There are two kinds of skin cancers, melanomas and non-melanomas.  The skin is a large and complex organ and each type of skin cancer starts in a different location in the skin, has different risk factors, and different prognoses.  Non-melanomas are the most common kinds of skin cancers.  Non-melanoma skin cancers include basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas.  These non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun, typically develop very slowly, and are usually red or brown in color.

Melanomas are rarer than non-melanomas, however they are faster to develop and metastasize to other organs which makes them more dangerous.  Melanoma is named after the type of cell in the epidermis, or outer layer of the skin, that they originate in – the melanocyte.  Melanocytes are the cells responsible for the production of melanin, or pigment, in the skin.  When skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes become active to produce melanin, or pigment, which gives the skin a tan color.  This process is one way the skin protects the rest of the body’s organs against damage from the sun.  After continued exposure to the sun, melanocytes can produce too much melanin, damaging the melanocytes and leading them to becoming cancerous.

Melanomas are more dangerous than non-melanomas because grow quickly and are highly likely to metastasize, or spread to other organs.  If found early, melanoma is easily treated.  Melanoma is a cancer of focus of the Hunterdon County Cancer Coalition because of the County’s high melanoma incidence and mortality rates.


What Are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?

  • Genetics – An individual with fair skin, blonde or red hair, and blue or green eyes has an increased risk of developing melanoma because their melanocytes produce less melanin, or pigment.
  • Sunburn History – An individual with a history of blistering sunburns, especially in childhood, has an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Tanning Booth Exposure – Individuals who use tanning booth have a much greater risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Family History – Individuals with family members who have had melanoma have an increased risk of developing the disease.


How to Detect and Prevent Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Detection

Melanoma can initially appear as a mole that has changed over time, or as a new mole on the skin.  It can also appear as a sore or lump on the skin.  Once a month, check your skin from head to toe using a hand mirror or a close family member to look at hard-to-see areas.  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends following the ABCDE rule for determining if a mole is suspicious or not:

  • A – Asymmetry- one half of the mole’s shape does not match the other half
  • B – Border – the mole does not have a defined border or the border of the mole is blurry
  • C – Color – the mole does not have a uniform color.  It may be brown or red mottled with blue, black, or yellow.
  • D – Diameter – the mole has a diameter greater than 6mm
  • E – Evolving – the mole has changed in texture, size, or color

In addition to monthly self-exams, the American Cancer Society recommends that adults ages 20-40 be screened by a dermatologist once every three years and that adults ages 40 and older be screened yearly by a dermatologist.


Skin Cancer Prevention

The easiest way to prevent skin cancer is to limit time spent in the sun.  Other ways to prevent skin cancers include:

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunblock with SPF 15 or higher twenty minutes before going outside – even in the winter.
  • Wear protective clothing that covers the skin and eyes.  In the summer, this includes long sleeve shits, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Minimize exposure to the sun, especially between the hours of 10 AM and 3PM, when the sun is more directly over the Earth.
  • Refrain from using tanning oils and tanning booths.


 Where Can I Find More Information?

  • View the American Academy of Dermatology’s Melanoma Fact Sheet here.
  • View the American Cancer Society’s Melanoma Overview Guide here.
  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control website here.
  • Visit the National Cancer Institute website here.

Source: American Cancer Society, American Academy of Dermatology

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast tissue of both men and women.  It is one of the most common cancers in women and, in rare cases, occurs in men.  There are several types of breast cancer.  The type of cancer depends on where in the breast the cancer began and the degree to which the cancer has spread into surrounding tissue.

Risk Factors for Developing Breast Cancer:

  • Age – breast cancer is more common in women over the age of 60
  • Family History – Women whose mothers, sisters or daughters have had breast cancer are more likely to develop the disease themselves.  Also, if a woman has had breast cancer, she is at an increased risk of developing the disease again.
  • Reproductive and menstrual history:


If a woman got her first period before the age of 12


She may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer

If a woman goes through menopause after age 55If a woman has never given birthIf a woman gives birth after the after the age of 30If a woman takes hormone therapy (For 5 or more years after menopause)If a woman has recently used birth control pills


  • Race- breast cancer occurs more frequently in white women than women of other ethnic groups
  • Breast density- women with mostly dense breast and less fatty tissue are more likely to develop the disease.  Dense breast tissue also makes potential tumors harder to detect on mammography
  • Weight – women who are overweight or obese, especially after menopause
  • Inactivity – women who regularly exercise have a lower risk of developing breast cancer
  • Alcohol consumption – women who consume more than one alcoholic beverage per day are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer


Breast Cancer Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer can include:

  • A change in how the breast or nipple feels or looks
  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area
  • Nipple tenderness
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • The nipple is turned inward
  • The skin of the breast, area around the nipple, or the nipple may be scaly, red, or swollen.
  • The skin may have ridges or pitting (May look like the skin of an orange)
  • Nipple discharge- blood or some kind of fluid substance

If women are experiencing pain in the breasts they should seek medical attention from their health care provider.  Most often, breast pain is not cancer, but is still important to have it checked by a health care provider.


Breast Cancer Screening

There are several ways to screen for breast cancer.  These screening methods include: breast self-exams, clinical breast exams and mammograms.

Breast Self-Exam

Regular breast self-exams enable women to become aware of the breasts’ normal appearance and feel.  Having this baseline appearance is important because women are then able to recognize changes early, and seek appropriate medical attention.

How to Conduct a Breast Self-Exam

  • Look for Changes
  • Stand in front of mirror and look for any changes in the size, shape, or appearance of the breast
    • This should be conducted by placing arms at side, above the head, and on hips
    • Feel for Changes
    • Lie on a flat surface with a pillow under one shoulder with that arm raised above the head
    • Women should use the pads of their three middle fingers to check their breasts
    • Three types of pressure should be use when conducting a self breast exam- light, medium, and deep.
    • Be sure to use a spiral, vertical, or horizontal pattern when  examining breasts- this ensures that all areas of the breast will be covered
    • Also be sure to check the armpit and collarbone areas because breast tissue is present in these areas
    • Be sure to check both breasts using the same procedure


Clinical Breast Exams

Clinical breast exams should be conducted every 2-3 years by a healthcare professional such as a primary care physician or a gynecologist.  Women should begin getting clinical breast exams in their 20’s.  The first clinical breast exam is also a good time for women to learn how to properly do a breast self-exam.  As a woman reaches her 40’s, a clinical breast exam should be performed more frequently.



Mammograms are a type of imaging done of the breast.  Women should begin getting yearly screening mammograms at the age of 40.  A screening mammogram is done on women who have no other symptoms of breast disease.  If a woman has symptoms of breast disease such as discharge, abnormal screening mammogram, or pain, she may be sent to have a diagnostic mammogram.  A diagnostic mammogram takes additional views or pictures of the breast to determine if there is an area that needs to be biopsied.


Where Can I Find More Information?

  • View the American Cancer Society Overview Guide on breast cancer here.
  • View the Susan G. Komen Foundation Breast Cancer Guide here.
  • Visit the website for the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov
  • Visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov


Source: American Cancer Society

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