Cancers in Women

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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 classifications depend on if cancer began developing in the milk ducts or milk-making glands and the degree to which the cancer has spread into surrounding tissue.  Breast cancer is more common in women over the age of 60. 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.

Cervical Cancer

Nearly all cervical cancer is caused by infection with human papillomavirus or HPV.  At least 50 percent of Americans get an HPV infection, and 74 percent of infections occur by age 24.  Most HPV infections resolve with time, but about 10,000 young women die each year from cervical cancer.  There are more than 100 strains of HPV, but only a few cause cancer.  Two strains of HPV, 16 and 18, cause 70 percent of cervical cancer.  These are called “high risk” strains.

HPV also causes abnormal Pap smears.  The Pap smear is a test to detect cervical cancer, but often the test is abnormal because of infection with HPV.  Abnormal Pap smears are followed up with additional testing and sometimes with surgical procedures, all designed to tell the difference between cancer and changes from low-risk HPV infection.  Reducing HPV infection will reduce the number of necessary follow-up tests and procedures resulting from abnormal Pap smears.

  • Visit the website for the HPV vaccines at
  • Visit Planned Parenthood’s website for more information about HPV and other sexually transmitted infections at
  • 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.

Ovarian Cancer

Cancer that starts in the ovaries is called ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer often has no symptoms and frequently goes undetected until it has spread. As a result, ovarian cancer is difficult to treat and is often fatal.

The following are factors that may increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer:

  • Inherited gene mutation
  • Family history
  • Previous cancer diagnosis
  • Increasing age
  • Never having been pregnant
  • Hormone replacement therapy

If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or you have any symptoms that worry you, discuss your concerns with your physician.

Uterine Cancer

Cancer that starts in the uterus, it is called uterine cancer. Endometrial cancer, which forms in the lining of the uterus, is the most common type of uterine cancer. The risk of uterine cancer increases with age. When uterine cancer is found early, treatment is most effective.

Are You at High Risk for Cancer?

If you have a personal or family history of cancer, our genetic counselors can help you to understand your risk.

Knowing your risk for cancer can create uncertainty, but it can also save your life. People with a personal or family history of cancer can turn to the Family Risk Assessment Program at Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center for risk education, genetic counseling, and testing.

Advanced oncology certified nurses and certified genetic counselors consider a number of factors when determining a person’s risk. They ask questions about personal and family cancer history over generations, the age of onset, patterns in cancer sites, the number of family members affected and environmental exposures.

Answers to these questions help them determine if an individual should have earlier or more frequent screenings for certain cancers, or if he or she should consider further testing.

“We can effectively reduce a person’s lifetime cancer risk,” says Ms. Rachel Rando, coordinator of the Family Risk Assessment Program and board-certified and licensed genetic counselor. “When you understand your risk factors (genetic and non-genetic), you can take steps to manage them through prevention and early detection.”

For more information, call the Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center at 1-888-788-1260 or visit the Family Risk Assessment Program, or call (908) 788-2535.

Learn more about gynecologic cancers by visiting the CDC’s Inside Knowledge About Gynecologic Cancer.

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American Cancer Society – Support

If you need a physician, consult the physician search or call Hunterdon Medical Center’s Physician Referral Service at 1-800-511-4462.

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