Doctors work hard each day to detect, diagnose, and treat disease. Behind the scenes, medical researchers are finding ways to improve disease detection, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Cancer research is a prime example. This area involves exactly that: understanding how cancer works to develop better tests, treatments, and preventive measures.1
There are several types of cancer research. For example, the American Cancer Society (ACS) conducts laboratory tests and clinical trials, or studies that test new cancer treatments. The ACS also studies health providers / health systems and social / environmental factors that influence our health.2
Researchers gain important information from these studies, and the opportunity to improve the lives of future cancer patients.
But, the benefits don’t stop there: Cancer research positively impacts other areas of healthcare – including women’s health.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Improved Access to Healthcare
You might not know her name, but you or someone you love has probably benefitted from the work of American pathologist Elizabeth Stern. Her groundbreaking research paved the way for preventing, diagnosing, and treating cervical cancer.
Stern developed a 100-point scale to identify and rank the progression of cervical cancer, which helped doctors to detect and treat the disease sooner.3
Still, Stern didn’t stop there. She wanted to make these advances available to all.
In 1977, Stern published a study on cervical cancer cases in Los Angeles. The results were revealing: Low-income communities, which were largely Black and Hispanic, had the highest numbers of the disease.
Stern then trained area health workers to recruit patients to attend free health clinics. With free transportation and childcare, the women’s needs were made clear. They called for clinics in their neighborhoods, flexible operating hours, education on health screenings and procedures, and female nurses / doctors to conduct these tests.
Today – due in no small part to Stern’s work – the Los Angeles County Department of Health has 17 different locations providing free or low-cost women’s health care.4
Breast cancer research helps women of all ages take better charge of their health.
Routine breast self-exams can’t prevent cancer, but research suggests they help you to become familiar with your body – what’s normal for you and what’s not.5
If you notice unusual lumps, rashes, dimpling / puckering of the skin, or nipple discharge, schedule a clinical breast exam with your doctor.6 Although most changes found during a self-exam are benign, some may be early signs of breast cancer.
Learning about breast health and performing regular self-exams can help you to:
- understand what is normal for your body,
- become familiar with your family history,
- be your own health advocate, and
- raise awareness among family and friends.7
Better Treatments for Top Diseases
Cancer research helps to answer important questions about infections, viruses, and other women’s health conditions.
For example, some strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, can cause cervical cancer. Research also shows a connection between a stomach bacterium (Helicobacter pylori) and ulcers and gastric cancer.8
The scientists behind the COVID-19 vaccines have also drawn upon the knowledge gained from cancer research. Over the past few decades, cancer researchers have further learned how the body’s immune system fights cancer cells – giving rise to the exciting fields of immunotherapy and immune-oncology.
This research is part of the important work to end the current pandemic and find ways to prevent or fight another one.9
The More You Know
Researchers have spent years studying cancer and what drives its development in women and men. Here are some of the known risk factors:
- Lifestyle: Factors range from a high-fat diet and alcohol consumption to smoking and a lack of exercise.
- Family history: Cancer can develop when mutations occur in your genes, which can be inherited at birth.
- Viruses: HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, HPV, and the Epstein-Barr virus are associated with an increased risk of certain cancers.
- Environment: Researchers are finding links between toxic chemicals, such as certain pesticides and fertilizers, with some cancers.10
By learning about these risks, you can make more informed decisions – for yourself, your health, and your family.
Make an easy decision today by making time for your mammogram (and encourage other women in your life to do the same!).
All women over 40 need breast screenings. This also applies if you have a family history of breast cancer or have noticed changes to your breasts.
Earlier mammograms may be indicated for patients with first-degree relatives with breast or ovarian cancer, to start approximately 10 years prior to age of diagnosis in that first-degree relative.
Call us at (904) 996-8100 to book your mammogram or schedule your screening online.
1Cancer Research UK. (n.d.). Our research strategy. Retrieved from https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/funding-for-researchers/our-research-strategy
2American Cancer Society. (2022). Our research. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/research/we-fund-cancer-research.html
3Elliott, E. (2017). One more pioneering woman in science you’ve probably never heard of. Scientific American. Published online November 6, 2017.
4Elliott, E. (2016). Elizabeth Stern’s cancer research has had a lasting impact on women’s health. The Jackson Laboratory. Published on September 19, 2016.
5Mayo Clinic. (2022). Breast self-exam for breast awareness. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/breast-exam/about/pac-20393237
6Cedars-Sinai. (2021). Examining the bare truth about breast self-exams. Published online October 4, 2021.
7Tigerlily Foundation. (2022). For girls. Retrieved from https://www.tigerlilyfoundation.org/for-girls/
8Fred Hutch News Service. (2021). 5 reasons why a cancer research center has virology expertise. Published online March 18, 2021.
9PhRMA. (2022). Biopharmaceutical R&D working to fight COVID-19. Retrieved from https://phrma.org/Coronavirus
10Stanford Medicine. (2022). What causes cancer? Retrieved from https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/cancer/cancer/cancer-causes.html