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Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells grow, divide, and spread. In most cancers, these abnormal cells form a mass called a tumor. (Not all tumors are cancer.) Cancers found in the blood or immune system do not form tumors. Most cancers are named for where they start. For example, lung cancer starts in the lung, and breast cancer starts in the breast. But cancers can spread. They can invade nearby tissues and organs. Or, they can break away and spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms and treatment depend on the cancer type and how advanced it is.
Cancer is a leading cause of death in Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women. The most common cancers found in Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women include breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer. Compared to non-Hispanic white women, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women are more likely to have cancer diagnosed at a later, advanced stage. This explains, in part, why Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women have poorer survival rates compared to non-Hispanic white women.
A number of factors can affect a woman's cancer risk. Some factors, such as getting older and family history, cannot be controlled. Yet, you can lower your risk of some cancers by changing some aspects of your life:
Women also can protect themselves from cancer by getting regular checkups and screenings. Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women are less likely to get regular cancer screenings than women in other groups. Screening tests can help find cancers such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer. This way, if cancer develops, it is likely to be found early. Treatment often works best when cancer is found early. A vaccine given can protect women from infections that can cause cervical cancer.
We don't always know why one person develops cancer and another does not. Yet with a healthy lifestyle and routine screening, you will feel good knowing you are doing what you can to lower your cancer risk.
Content last updated: May 18, 2010.
Resources last updated: May 18, 2010.