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    Do I Need to Get Mammograms After Menopause?

    Do I Need to Get Mammograms After Menopause?

    Mammograms may not be your favorite thing to do, but they’re still an important part of women’s health care. Mammograms are special x-rays that look at the breast tissue. They can be a helpful screening tool to look for signs of breast cancer. Now, you may have a lot of questions about mammograms, including whether you still need them after menopause and what to expect. So, let’s talk about mammograms in general, why you need them, when you need them, and how they work. 

    Why are Mammograms Important for Women’s Health Care?

    Woman smiling after menopause because of quality women's health care from HerKare

    Women’s health care helps you stay healthy after menopause, so make sure you schedule mammograms and other screenings to address your health.

    Why do doctors recommend getting regular mammograms? Essentially, they can help with screening and early detection of breast cancer.

    Mammograms can help detect abnormalities before you can even feel them during a breast exam or experience symptoms. Early detection is important because it can help reduce risks, increase the chances of survival. It can also help open up more treatment options.

    Therefore, most health experts recommend regular mammograms as an important breast cancer screening tool. Also, since mammograms can help with early detection, many insurance plans cover these screenings (though you should always check your specific policy to be certain). 

    What Does my Women’s Health Care Provider Look for During a Mammogram

    What exactly does the radiologist look for in the mammogram images? There are many things they may be on the lookout for, including: 

    • Calcifications
    • Masses
    • Abnormal changes

    Calcifications are mineral deposits in the breasts. These are pretty common and can be either benign or malignant. Things like aging, injuries, and benign cysts can all cause calcifications. However, they can also be caused by dead abnormal cells building up and becoming hard, which may be an early indication of breast cancer. 

    Masses include cysts and tumors. Once again, these can be fairly common and don’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer. In fact, most breast cysts and tumors are benign. However, since some can be cancerous, the radiologist will look for signs of these masses in your mammogram. 

    Also, if you have records of previous mammograms, the radiologist may also compare them to look for changes that might be concerning. Having these past images may help the radiologist detect changes that might require additional screenings. Therefore, if you change to a different women’s health clinic, you may want to request your records be sent to your new provider to help with this process.

    Do I Still Need Mammograms After Menopause?

    Now, you might wonder if you still need mammograms after menopause. The answer is typically yes.

    As we mentioned, you should talk to one of our medical professionals about your personal situation. However, it’s important to understand that the risk for breast cancer increases as we age. In fact, research estimates most breast cancers are found in women who are over 50. So, mammograms are still important after menopause for most women. 

    Talk to a Women’s Health Care Provider about How Often to Get Mammograms After Menopause

    Of course, not every woman has the same needs, even when it comes to mammograms. So, talk to one of our doctors about mammograms and how often you need one after menopause. 

    General mammogram guidelines for women with average breast cancer risk recommend:

    • 40-44 years old: Optional annual mammograms
    • 45-54 years old: Annual mammograms
    • 55-75 years old: Mammograms every 1-2 years
    • 75+ years old: Mammograms based on your individual health status and risks

    However, these recommendations don’t fit every single woman’s individual risks, benefits, and needs. Therefore, it’s important to discuss mammograms and mammogram frequency with your health care provider based on your situation. One of our women’s health care providers can discuss your medical history, risk factors, overall health, and more to help create a personalized plan for mammogram frequency. 

    Your age and menopausal status may help you and our health care provider determine how often you should get mammograms. After menopause, you might be able to switch to getting mammograms every two years instead of every year. This depends on many different factors. However, some research suggests that after menopause, women tend to have slower-growing breast cancers than premenopausal women. This may mean that you can reduce mammogram frequency to every two years, though you should talk to our doctors about your risks and individual circumstances. 

    What to Expect During a Mammogram

    If you’re going in for your first mammogram, you might feel a little nervous. Knowing what to expect can help, so let’s talk about what to expect before, during, and after your mammogram.

    How to Prepare for a Mammogram at your Women’s Health Clinic

    There’s not much you need to do to prepare for a mammogram after you schedule the appointment. Most women find it’s more comfortable to wear a two piece outfit that day, as you’ll have to undress from the waist up for the mammogram. 

    Also, it’s important not to wear deodorant, powder, lotion, or perfumes anywhere on or around the breasts the day of your mammogram. This is because these products can leave behind small particles that can show up on the mammogram and may look like calcifications or other potential concerns. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is not to apply anything to your breasts, underarms, or surrounding areas the day of your mammogram. 

    Now, of course, this is a routine for many women. If you forget and realize you have deodorant or other products on, just let us know during check-in. In some cases, you may be able to remove the products enough with a cleaning cloth to still go ahead with your mammogram. 

    During the Mammogram

    The mammogram itself takes typically around 30 minutes. The mammographer will place your breast onto a plate and another plate compresses the breast to help with imaging. Some women might feel some discomfort with the compression, but speak up if you feel pain, especially if you experience severe pain. The compression lasts anywhere from a few seconds to a little less than a minute for each image. Most mammograms include at least two images for each breast.

    Getting Your Results

    After your mammogram, the images go to a radiologist who “reads” them. The office will typically contact you within a week to give you your results. The results might include explaining your breast density score, any areas of concern, or simply when the doctor recommends you have your next mammogram.

    Getting Called Back After a Mammogram

    Sometimes, you may need to come back for additional imaging, such as another mammogram, a breast ultrasound, or even a breast MRI. This is actually fairly common, with an estimated 5-15% of women getting called back for more images. So, while it might be concerning to you, try not to worry too much and work with your women’s health care provider to schedule the extra screening to learn more. Most repeat mammograms and breast images don’t detect cancer, so keep this in mind if you get called back after your mammogram.

    Often, if the mammogram images aren’t clear, parts of the breasts were left out of the images, or if the radiologist sees an area that might be a concern, then they’ll recommend additional tests to look at the area more closely.

    In some cases, if you have dense breasts, then your provider may also recommend additional imaging. Dense breasts are essentially breasts that have a higher ratio of breast tissue to fat. Dense breasts are fairly common, but they can make detecting issues on mammogram images a little more difficult and they also increase your risk for breast cancer. Therefore, in many cases, you may need additional tests done as part of your breast cancer screening. Your doctor will help you determine next steps based on your specific situation and risk factors. 

    Quality Women’s Health Care at Every Stage of Life from HerKare

    Looking for a women’s health care provider that understands? We’re a women’s health clinic owned and managed by women for women. Our goal is to help you address your wellness at every stage of life. We are here to help empower you to take control of your health today. Whether you need a well woman check up or are dealing with concerning symptoms, make an appointment today to discuss your health with our medical team.

    Can HRT Help with Menopause Brain Fog?

    Can HRT Help with Menopause Brain Fog?

    Where did I leave my keys? What’s their name again? I know I walked in here for a reason… Brain fog is a common menopause symptom that can be frustrating for many women. It can cause issues remembering things, difficulty concentrating, and confusion. An estimated 60% of women experience brain fog during menopause. However, HRT may be able to help reduce brain fog and help you feel more like yourself. Let’s talk about why hormones might affect your brain. 

    Can HRT Help with Brain Fog?

    Woman looking into the distance due to brain fog during menopause who may benefit from HRT

    Brain fog can be difficult to deal with for some women, which is why doctors may recommend HRT to help with your symptoms.

    Brain fog is a serious issue for many women. Some women experience mild symptoms and some won’t experience it at all. However, others may start to notice it interferes with their lives. Brain fog can be frustrating and isolating for many women during menopause. Some may even be alarmed and wonder if they’re showing early signs of dementia when brain fog is particularly bad. Brain fog has been associated with the menopause transition, which has led many researchers to consider whether hormones play a part in brain fog. Some studies are also looking at whether hormone therapy can help improve brain fog symptoms.

    What is Brain Fog? 

    Brain fog is different from memory changes that come with normal aging. Most people will experience forgetfulness and other cognitive changes as our bodies and brains change with age. These changes, much like normal aging, can come on gradually. 

    Brain fog, on the other hand, often happens suddenly with the beginning of perimenopause. Most women describe it as an increase in forgetfulness, whether forgetting someone’s name, why you walked into a room, or the password to your phone. Several studies have found that women during menopause score lower on tests for:

    • Verbal learning
    • Memory
    • Motor function
    • Attention
    • Working memory

    Brain fog may be to blame for these lower cognitive scores. With brain fog, you might notice it begins around the time of perimenopause and symptoms can continue into early menopause. The good news is that brain fog typically isn’t permanent and most women notice the symptoms fade away after some time. However, they may still deal with frustrating symptoms for several years, much like other menopause symptoms such as hot flashes. Depending on your symptoms and overall health, our providers may recommend HRT to help with perimenopause and menopause.

    Why Does Brain Fog Happen During Menopause?

    So, what does menopause have to do with brain fog? It turns out, quite a lot. 

    First of all, menopause can cause a whole host of symptoms, some of which can affect our brains. For example, night sweats can hinder normal sleep. Lack of sleep can make it feel like you’re walking through a fog and can affect your cognition. Mood changes, depression, and anxiety can all also affect your memory and attention. 

    However, researchers have found that there may be more at play than sleep and mood disturbances when it comes to menopausal brain fog. During menopause, our hormones start to fluctuate and decline, leading up to our very last period. Estrogen is one of the main hormones involved in this process. Some researchers believe decreasing estrogen levels may have an impact on memory and learning, which might explain why many women experience brain fog during menopause. 

    Estrogen May Help with Memory, Learning, and Cognition for Menopause Treatment

    Most of us associate estrogen with things like periods, puberty, and pregnancy. However, this important female hormone may also help our brains. Some researchers believe that estrogen can also help with memory and cognition. For instance, researchers have noticed that female mice notice major declines in memory when they lose estrogen. However, when that estrogen is replaced, mice in studies often improve. Therefore, there may be a link between estrogen and memory. This may also mean that HRT may help fight brain fog during menopause.

    One potential explanation of why estrogen may affect memory is that it might affect the hippocampus. Estrogen may influence many functions of the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory formation and learning. 

    Estrogen’s Effects on the Hippocampus

    We have known for a while that estrogen is neuroprotective. In other words, it helps protect nerve endings. Therefore, estrogen may help protect the hippocampus from damage. In turn, this might help protect against brain fog and cognitive decline. 

    Also, there may be several other ways estrogen can affect the hippocampus. Researchers are still studying the effects of estrogen on the brain and hippocampus. However, what they have found is that estrogen may help increase the number of spines in the brain. Spines branch off of nerve cells in the brain and are essentially how brain cells communicate with each other. So, estrogen may help improve communication between brain cells in the hippocampus, which may also assist with memory. 

    HRT Can Help Replace Estrogen Lost During Menopause

    Estrogen replacement is often used as a form of menopause treatment. The idea is to help replace the estrogen that’s lost during menopause. This can help relieve some of the unpleasant and frustrating symptoms of menopause. 

    Some researchers theorize that if estrogen affects the hippocampus and other parts of the brain, then HRT may also help with brain fog. This may be due to estrogen reaching the receptors in the brain. Also, if brain fog is due to things like fatigue or mood changes, then estrogen may help reduce these symptoms which, in turn, helps reduce brain fog. For example, hormone therapy can help relieve night sweats that keep many women up at night and can cause foggy, tired thinking. 

    So, if you’re dealing with brain fog and other menopause symptoms, talk to one of our providers. You’re not alone, and there are many treatments available that may help you feel better. In addition to menopausal hormone replacement therapy, we can also help you design a treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes like diet and exercise to help you address and relieve your symptoms. 

    Quality Care for Women at Every Stage of Life

    Looking for quality health care from a caring team of doctors and health professionals? Our team at HerKare is here for you. We offer quality women’s health care at every stage of life. Whether you’re dealing with brain fog from menopause or need well woman care, we are here for you. We believe in empowering women to address their health by listening to your concerns and providing quality care to help. Book an appointment at one of our convenient locations today and let’s talk about your wellbeing.

    Menopause Could Put You at Risk for High Cholesterol

    Menopause Could Put You at Risk for High Cholesterol

    Do you know your cholesterol levels? If not, it’s time to talk to our women’s health care provider about them! You may not realize, but menopause could change your cholesterol levels and put you at a higher risk for high cholesterol, which can put your health at risk. Even if your cholesterol levels have been healthy before, menopause is a critical time to get screened and talk to your doctor about strategies to help you stay healthy.

    mature woman sitting on couch with iPad looking at strategies for lowering cholesterol after menopause

    Staying healthy after menopause means knowing your cholesterol levels!

    Talk to Your Women’s Health Care Provider About Your Cholesterol Levels

    High cholesterol usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. It’s a silent condition, but it can put your health at risk in many different ways. So, it’s important to know whether you have high or elevated levels and learn strategies to lower them or keep them in healthy ranges. 

    Here are the current cholesterol screening recommendations for women with low risk:

    • 20-55: Cholesterol screening every 4-6 years
    • 55-65: Cholesterol screening every 1-2 years
    • 65+: Cholesterol screening every year

    However, if you do have certain risk factors, our women’s health care provider may recommend more frequent screenings.

    Here are some general cholesterol goals for most healthy adults:

    • Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL
    • LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
    • HDL cholesterol: more than 60 mg/dL

    The key to remember is you want your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels low and your HDL (good cholesterol) levels to be high. This is because LDL sticks to and builds up in the arteries, like hair clogging a drain in your home. HDL, on the other hand, is sort of like a drain cleaner, taking cholesterol out of the bloodstream and back to the liver.

    Menopause Can Increase Your Risk for High Cholesterol

    If you’re going through menopause, now may be an important time to get a cholesterol test. LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise and HDL levels tend to decrease around this time. There may be a link between low estrogen levels and this cholesterol change during menopause. Other changes during this time can also contribute to the risk for high cholesterol.

    How Estrogen Affects HDL Cholesterol Levels

    While both men and women can have high cholesterol levels, women are more at risk later in life after menopause. This is because estrogen drops off pretty dramatically during menopause. Estrogen is a hormone that has been linked to higher HDL cholesterol levels. Remember, HDL cholesterol is the good kind, that helps remove the LDL from your arteries and back to the liver. However, lower estrogen levels after menopause can mean your HDL levels start to decline and your LDL levels start to increase. Therefore, even if you’ve never had high cholesterol levels before, these hormone changes can have a significant impact. 

    One study found that cholesterol levels rose dramatically anywhere from one year before to one year after the last period for women who participated in the study. That’s why it’s important to talk to your women’s health care provider about cholesterol and how to keep it in healthy ranges during and after menopause. 

    Why Care about Cholesterol Levels?

    It’s a common misconception that only middle-aged men need to worry about cholesterol, but women are at risk for high cholesterol as well, particularly after menopause. The problem with high cholesterol is that, even though it doesn’t necessarily have any symptoms, it can cause other serious health conditions. Some of the most concerning and life-threatening are cardiovascular problems from high cholesterol.

    Increases Risk for Heart Disease, Heart Attack, and Stroke

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, especially for women after menopause. Unfortunately, cholesterol awareness is particularly low among women. One survey from the American Heart Association found that most women, about 76%, didn’t know their cholesterol levels. However, cholesterol can put your health at risk. 

    High cholesterol levels can increase your risk for conditions like:

    • Heart disease
    • Atherosclerosis (hardening of your arteries)
    • High blood pressure
    • Heart attack
    • Stroke

    The main problem with cholesterol is that it can clog your arteries. Cholesterol can become sticky plaque that sticks to the arteries and blood vessels. Over time, this can harden your arteries and make them narrower, meaning less blood can flow through them. This can make your heart work harder and even damage the heart muscle from all the overwork. 

    Also, the plaque can break off and cause clots that block blood flow. If the blood clot blocks blood flow to your heart, you have a heart attack. If it blocks blood to the brain, you have a stroke. Therefore, it’s incredibly important for your heart health to keep your cholesterol levels in check. 

    Where does Cholesterol Come From?

    To understand how to keep your cholesterol levels healthy, you need to know what cholesterol is and where it comes from.

    First, what is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance in your blood. Cholesterol isn’t all bad, and you actually need it to make many different things in your body, like bile, sex hormones, cortisol, and vitamin D. 

    Since cholesterol is so necessary for many different processes in your body, your liver actually makes most of the cholesterol you need. About 80% of cholesterol comes from your liver. The other 20% of cholesterol comes from your diet. 

    It’s a common misconception that dietary cholesterol increases your blood cholesterol levels. This isn’t necessarily the case. Actually, dietary cholesterol is unlikely to significantly increase your risks for high cholesterol. However, trans fats and saturated fats certainly can. 

    Some things that play a role in your risks for high cholesterol include:

    • Genetics
    • Diet
    • Age
    • Activity level

    Why Get Regular Cholesterol Screenings from your Women’s Health Clinic?

    Getting your cholesterol tested is a simple blood test we perform at our women’s health clinic. Our team can check your cholesterol levels as part of your annual health exam. We can also talk about strategies for keeping your cholesterol levels healthy. Even if you don’t have high or elevated levels, we can talk about things you can do to keep them low. 

    If you do have unhealthy cholesterol levels, we’ll work with you to create a treatment plan to help you stay healthy and reduce your risks. So, make sure you get regular cholesterol screenings as part of taking care of your overall health.

    Treatment Solutions for High Cholesterol After Menopause

    If you do have high cholesterol levels after menopause, our women’s health care team can help you find treatment solutions for how to lower cholesterol. Treatment for high cholesterol can look different for different people, and it all depends on your specific situation. 

    For instance, some women are able to lower cholesterol with diet and lifestyle changes, like cutting out trans and saturated fats and increasing how much they exercise. In other cases, you may need medications to help lower your cholesterol. Many women require all of these strategies. Our medical professionals will work with you to personalize your treatment and help you reduce health risks from high cholesterol. 

    Quality Women’s Health Care to Help You Take Control of Your Health

    Our team at HerKare is here to empower you by helping you take care of your health. We listen, understand, and help you take steps to improve your overall wellness. We’re with you at every stage of life to help you stay healthy and help you feel great. Whether you have a specific health concern or just need a checkup to get necessary screenings to help with early detection of serious conditions, our team is here for you. Make an appointment with one of our women’s health care providers today!

    Hormone Imbalance Treatment May Help Reduce Appetite

    Hormone Imbalance Treatment May Help Reduce Appetite

    Does menopause have you feeling hungry all the time? Hormone imbalance treatment may help curb your appetite! Many women gain weight during menopause, particularly around their midsection. Unfortunately, this weight gain may lead to being overweight or obese, which can cause some serious health consequences. However, our health providers can help you design a personalized strategy to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight.

    woman in kitchen cutting up vegetables after hormone imbalance treatment helps with her appetite

    Hormone imbalance treatment may help regulate your appetite after menopause by increasing estrogen levels in your body.

    Appetite Out of Control? Hormone Imbalance Treatment May Help

    A lot of changes happen during menopause, including appetite changes for some women. Many notice that they feel hungrier or even experience more cravings as they transition into menopause. This could be due to many different things, such as increased stress levels or emotional changes. What many people don’t realize is that hormone changes can also contribute to appetite changes during menopause

    Fortunately, if hormone imbalances are to blame, hormone imbalance treatment may be able to help regulate your appetite. For instance, low estrogen is a common issue for women during perimenopause that can cause a whole host of symptoms, from sleep issues, mood changes, and hot flashes. Estrogen also plays an important role in appetite and metabolism. So, low estrogen may increase your appetite and slow down your metabolism.

    How Estrogen Affects Appetite

    Declining estrogen levels are often to blame for many of the changes we experience during menopause. Therefore, many women choose to start an estrogen replacement therapy regimen during menopause. 

    You’ve probably heard of some common symptoms low estrogen levels during menopause can cause, like hot flashes and mood changes. Evidence now suggests that estrogen can play a role in increased appetite during menopause

    While many women have said for years that they felt hungrier after menopause, researchers weren’t sure why. Now there have been several studies about how estrogen helps regulate appetite, both during the menstrual cycle in premenopausal women as well as during and after menopause. It’s important to understand how estrogen affects appetite to understand why you might feel hungrier and how you might be able to help control your appetite and cravings.

    Estrogen Curbs Appetite in the Brain

    Scientists are still researching how estrogen affects appetite. However, some studies, including one from the Yale School of Medicine, have found that estrogen may act similarly to the hunger suppressing hormone leptin.

    Researchers in the Yale study found that estrogen regulates your metabolism, likely through the estrogen receptors in the brain. Estrogen may even use the same pathways in the brain as the hormone leptin to help reduce appetite. The study’s author theorized that low estrogen might be responsible for changes in metabolism during menopause, such as burning fewer calories and increased appetite. They also mentioned that estradiol may play a key role in helping reduce the risk of weight gain by helping regulate the appetite, especially for those who are leptin resistant.

    Estrogen can mimic a lot of the same effects of leptin, but what does that mean? First, let’s go over what leptin actually is. Leptin is a hormone made of fat cells. The more fat you have in your body, the more leptin you should have. Since fat is your body’s version of energy stores, the leptin hormone helps signal that you don’t need to continue storing as much fat. Basically, it tells your brain to cool it on appetite and ramp up your metabolism to help burn some of those energy stores. Estrogen can also help reduce appetite and increase metabolism similar to how leptin does.

    Essentially, for most women when estrogen is higher, they feel full and satisfied sooner and many have fewer cravings because of the amount of estrogen reaching the receptors in the brain. However, during menopause, your body produces less estrogen, which can make your appetite higher and your metabolism slower, as well as causing other menopause symptoms. Therefore, hormone imbalance treatment to help keep estrogen balanced may help reduce these symptoms. 

    Estrogen May Affect Hunger Hormones

    Estrogen levels can also affect your hunger hormones. For instance, chronic low estrogen levels, such as after menopause, can cause leptin resistance. Estrogen may also affect other hunger hormones like ghrelin and cholecystokinin (CCK). Ghrelin is a hormone that helps tell you when you’re hungry and need to eat. Estrogen may help suppress ghrelin, which can help reduce how hungry you feel. CCK is a hormone that helps tell you when you’re full. Estrogen can also increase the potency of CCK in your body to help you feel full and satisfied longer. Low estrogen levels can throw these hormones off as well, which can also increase your appetite during menopause. 

    Other Ways Menopause May Affect Hunger and Appetite

    Of course, there may be other reasons why many women have increased appetite during menopause. For instance, sleep deprivation can not only make you feel hungrier, but also have you reaching for fast energy, but low nutrient foods like sodas and sweets. Sleep issues are also common during menopause, especially for women who suffer from night sweats, or hot flashes at night. 

    In addition, other menopause symptoms can also cause lifestyle changes that might increase your appetite. Things like reaching for comfort foods due to mood changes, or feeling like you don’t have much energy can hold you back from getting exercise can also make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight and control your appetite and cravings. 

    Hormone Imbalance Treatment Can Help Reduce Appetite During Menopause

    If you’re struggling with symptoms of menopause, our medical team may recommend hormone replacement treatment to help. Taking estrogen may help bring your hormones back into balance to help alleviate symptoms like hot flashes and sleep disturbances that interfere with your life and overall well being. Since estrogen may play such an important role in appetite, estrogen replacement therapy may also help your body regulate appetite and boost metabolism as well. 

    Other Lifestyle Changes to Consider

    In addition to hormone therapy, our providers may also recommend healthy lifestyle changes to help you improve wellness during menopause. If you’re dealing with increased appetite during menopause, there are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of overeating.

    For instance, eating more slowly can help you better pick up on signals that your body is full. Also, eating a healthy diet with plenty of low calorie and high fiber foods may also help you control how many calories you’re taking in. Starting an exercise program can also help you burn more calories to help you manage your weight during menopause. 

    Our team takes a holistic approach to healthcare, which means we help design treatment and wellness plans that suit your lifestyle and take underlying causes of your symptoms into account. We may recommend multifaceted approaches as part of your treatment plan to help you tackle your unwanted symptoms head-on. 

    Hormone Replacement Treatment at HerKare

    When you need quality women’s health care, choose our team at HerKare. We specialize in providing treatment solutions to women at every stage of life, including during menopause. We also offer bioidentical hormone therapy to help keep your hormones in balance before, during, and after menopause. Make an appointment today and let’s talk about how you’re feeling and what we can do to help.

    Women’s Health Care: Skin Cancer Signs, Risks & Prevention

    Women’s Health Care: Skin Cancer Signs, Risks & Prevention

    May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so we’re here to talk about skin cancer in women. Skin cancer is a serious condition, so it’s important to talk to your women’s health care provider about your risk factors, prevention strategies, and other specifics for your situation. Here’s some general information to help you learn more about skin cancer. 

    What is Skin Cancer?

    First off, what is skin cancer? Skin cancer is essentially where damaged DNA causes a mutation that triggers an abnormal and out-of-control growth of your skin cells. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers world-wide, and about 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer before they turn 70. 

    The problem with skin cancer is that it can spread to other parts of the body, like nearby lymph nodes or even other organs. Most skin cancers are easily treatable in the early stages, yet more than two people every hour die of skin cancer according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

    There are three main types of skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Most people know melanoma as the most deadly type of skin cancer, but it’s important to know that all three types are serious and should be addressed by a medical professional.

    Talk to your Women’s Health Care Provider About Your Risks

    Anyone can get skin cancer, but there are some factors that may increase your risk, including:

    • Fair skin
    • Red or blonde hair
    • History of sun exposure and sunburns
    • A large number of moles on your body
    • Family history of skin cancer
    • Indoor tanning
    woman wearing sun hat and sun glasses after women's health care provider told her about skin cancer risks

    Talk to your women’s health care provider about how you can protect your skin from harmful UV radiation.

    Most skin cancers are associated with UV radiation, like from sun tanning, a lot of sun exposure throughout your life, and using indoor tanning devices. Remember, five or more sunburns in your life doubles your risk for melanoma

    It’s a common misconception that tanning is a sign of being healthy. However, many people don’t realize what a tan really is. When you tan, UV radiation starts to damage the DNA in your cells. In response, your body sends pigmented cells to the upper layers of your skin to help protect your DNA from even further damage. So, tanning is a serious issue that may increase your risk for skin cancer. 

    What’s more, indoor tanning may be even worse than lying out in the sun. Indoor tanning devices can put out 10 to 15 times higher UV radiation than the sun. Therefore, it’s important to keep this in mind as you think about your skin cancer risks. 

    Women of Color Can Get Skin Cancer, too!

    Now, fair skin is one of the things that can increase your risk for developing skin cancer. However, that doesn’t mean women of color aren’t at risk! While fewer women of color develop skin cancer, it’s often more deadly for people of color, as it’s often diagnosed in late stages. 

    Skin cancer in women of color may appear in areas that don’t get very much sun exposure. For instance, the sole of the foot is one of the most common areas for skin cancer in people of color, happening in about 30-40% of cases. Also more cases of melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, develop in the palms, soles of feet, and nailbeds in people of color.

    Therefore, it’s important for everyone to take steps to prevent skin cancer and help with early detection. 

    Women’s Health Care Tips for Skin Cancer Prevention

    There are some things you can do to help reduce your risk for skin cancer. Talk to your women’s health care provider about the specifics of your situation. However, sun protection is a great place to start to help reduce UV rays that may cause skin cancer. 

    First, wear sunscreen every day, preferably SPF 30 or higher. This can help reduce the amount of UV radiation that your skin absorbs. So, make sure you apply it every day, even if it’s cloudy. Also, don’t forget to apply it to commonly forgotten areas like the lips, ears, and scalp and to reapply every two hours. 

    If you need another reason to wear sunscreen, daily use of SPF 15 or higher is associated with 24% less skin aging, so it may help you look younger in the long-run, too. 

    Here are some other important sun protection tips:

    • Wear clothing that covers your skin to protect it from UV radiation
    • Stay in the shade
    • Wear a wide-brimmed hat 
    • Use sunglasses

    When possible, try to avoid being outside during peak sun hours, which are between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. This is when UV radiation is typically at its strongest. 

    How to do a Self-Exam for Skin Cancer

    In addition to getting regular checkups at your women’s health clinic, it’s also important to do a self-exam to check for signs of skin cancer. Self-exams can help you detect potential signs of skin cancer and address them with a doctor. This may help with early detection. 

    You’ll need a full-length mirror and either a partner or a hand mirror for the self-exam. You’ll need to remove your clothes so you can look at all of your skin.

    Start by looking at your body in the full-length mirror. Be sure to check every area of skin that you can in the mirror, such as your underarms, palms, arms, legs, etc. Also, look in areas that don’t get a lot of sun, such as between your fingers and toes, your nail beds, the soles of your feet, and even your groin area. You want to check head-to-toe for any signs of skin cancer because it can develop anywhere on your skin. 

    You’ll also need to look at your back, neck, buttocks, and scalp. Here is where you’ll either need someone else to help you or to use a hand mirror for these hard-to-see areas. 

    If you notice anything abnormal, talk to your women’s health care provider. Also, keep in mind that skin cancer self-exams are supposed to help supplement your regular health exams, not replace them, so make sure you’re getting your recommended checkups. 

    Signs of Potential Skin Cancer

    Skin cancer typically appears as an abnormal skin lesion or mole. During your self-exams, keep A,B,C,D,E in mind:

    • Asymmetry: Asymmetrical moles
    • Border: Moles that have an irregular or jagged border
    • Colors: Moles that have more than one color 
    • Diameter: Moles that are bigger than a pencil eraser
    • Evolution: Moles or skin patches that change, grow, hurt, or bleed

    Some other things to look out for are sores that won’t heal, sores that heal and return, dry or rough patches of skin, and dark lines under finger and toe nails. Essentially, you’re looking for anything on your skin that looks abnormal.

    Age Spots vs. Skin Cancer

    A common question women have is what the difference between an age spot and skin cancer is. Age spots, also known as sun spots and liver spots, are areas of skin damage from years of sun exposure. Age spots are typically a cosmetic issue and don’t need any treatment. There are a few different types, but the most common one are darker areas on your skin. As such, they can look a lot like some types of skin cancer, like melanoma. Generally speaking, if anything new appears on your skin, it’s better to be safe than sorry and get it looked at by a doctor, especially if it fits the ABCDE rule. It’s usually best not to assume anything is an age spot and delay treatment if it could be skin cancer.

    Quality Women’s Health Care at HerKare

    Looking for a women’s health clinic that offers individualized, quality care? Our team at HerKare is here to help. We’re a women’s clinic operated by women for women. We take time to listen, understand your concerns, and then help provide personalized treatment solutions. Whether you’re having symptoms of a health condition or need a well woman exam, we’re here for you. Book your appointment online today!