You may have heard that PCOS can cause cancer. Yes, you should be concerned, but it’s not quite as bad as you might fear. Here’s the deal:
According to an NIH study by Dr. Dumesic, a noted PCOS researcher, women with PCOS have a 2.7 times higher risk of endometrial cancer. Why? If you don’t have a period, the endometrium – uterine lining – thickens and sometimes cells start to change in pre-cancerous or cancerous ways. This is why, even though it can be convenient to never get a period, it’s not healthy. It’s recommended that you work with your doctor to use hormonal methods to ensure a period occurs at least once every three months. This will help prevent those pre-cancerous changes that can become cancer.
October was Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I wrote several articles about the links between PCOS and breast cancer. It appears that family history and obesity are two big risk factors. You can’t change your family history, but you can work to manage excess weight through healthy eating, moderate exercise, daily meditation to reduce stress, and supportive social connections that keep you focused on your healthy lifestyle plan. You’ll find lots of those people in my free Facebook group, PCOS Psychology.
What about cervical cancer? Good news, women with PCOS do not have an increased risk of cervical cancer! Here’s a good article describing things you can do to manage cervical cancer risk.
The bottom line is, we still just don’t know what causes a lot of cancers. You should follow the screening guidelines and procedures recommended by your doctor, based upon your age, family history, and other risk factors.
These might include:
- Annual Pap smears;
- Annual or bi-annual mammograms;
- Annual “birthday suit” checkup for skin cancer;
- Colo-rectal screening (colonoscopy) every five years;
- Endoscopy (throat/esophageal tract) if you have a history of eating disorder, GERD, etc.;
- And anytime you have symptoms that suggest cancer, such as vomiting blood, rectal bleeding, strange skin growths, lumps in your breast, etc.
Don’t be so scared of cancer that you don’t check your body regularly, or that you avoid the doctor. Most cancers are highly curable if detected early. Don’t be afraid to push your doctor for testing if you’re worried. If you need help becoming more proactive about your health care, get a copy of my book, The PCOS Mood Cure: Your Guide to Ending the Emotional Roller Coaster, for a lot of helpful suggestions.