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American Cancer Society

Cancer Information Highlights

February 2003

Build A Stronger Community For A Healthier Life

Source: American Cancer Society, February 2003

You want to eat healthy foods, but your office vending machine offers only chocolate bars and cookies. And maybe you’d consider walking to do errands instead of driving if only your neighborhood had sidewalks. Healthy living is something we’d all like to do better, but sometimes our environment simply doesn’t encourage it.

“Leading a healthy life requires making the right choices,” says Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity at the American Cancer Society. “Unfortunately, the communities in which we live, work, and go to school can make this difficult.”

There are so many opportunities to improve the health of our communities. Here’s how public, private, and community organizations, and you too, can help make important contributions:

  • In the Workplace – With more than 130 million people working, many of us spend the majority of our day in the office. Talk with your employer about offering healthy food options in the vending machines and cafeteria, encouraging employees to use the stairs instead of the elevator, and providing seminars and programs to help teach healthy habits.

  • In the Community – With rapid urban and suburban growth, parks and recreation facilities are quickly disappearing, taking away prime places to exercise. Voice your concerns by voting to preserve parks and green space. Start a community watch group to improve safety for walkers and bikers. Support restaurants in your area that serve healthy food options.

  • In Schools – Schools are a great place for kids to learn healthy habits, but many don’t require health and physical education classes and some cut recess to spend more time in the classroom. Talk to the school board about making health education a priority in your schools and offering healthy foods and beverages on the school campus. grounds/campus.

One example of how workplaces can help: Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer and second largest retailer in the US, started a wellness program called Building Better Health in 1987.

“Building Better Health promotes health and wellness to all associates through awareness, education, assessment, and intervention programs,” said Bob Nardelli, president, CEO, and chairman of the board for Home Depot. “And it works: 87% of our associates feel the program is effective and 47% feel they have made positive lifestyle changes.”

It’s not easy to make healthy choices, but by working together with your community, you can make healthy living a reality for yourself and others.

What Can I Do Every Day?

For the majority of Americans who don’t use tobacco, eating a healthy diet and being physically active are the most effective ways to prevent cancer and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Where to start? Begin by following these guidelines from the American Cancer Society:

1. Eat a variety of healthful foods, with an emphasis on plant sources.

  • Eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruits every day.

  • Choose whole grains instead of processed (refined) grains and sugars.

  • Limit intake of red meats, especially those high in fat and processed.

  • Choose foods that help maintain a healthful weight.

2. Adopt a physically active lifestyle.

  • Adults: Engage in at least moderate activity for 30 minutes or more on five or more days per week; 45 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous activity on five or more days a week may further reduce risk for breast and colon cancer.

  • Children and teens: Engage in at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity at least five days per week.

3. Maintain a healthful weight throughout life.

  • Balance the calories you take in with physical activity.

  • Lose weight if you are currently overweight or obese.

4. If you drink alcoholic beverages at all, limit consumption.

For more information, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit

The Great American Weigh In sm

Source: American Cancer Society, February 2003

Research shows that maintaining a healthy weight is important for reducing the risk of cancer and other diseases, yet overweight and obesity trends are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of US adults are considered overweight or obese.

To help Americans maintain a healthy weight for life, the American Cancer Society and Weight Watchers will hold the first Great American Weigh In on March 5, 2003. During the nationwide one-day promotion, you can go into a Weight Watchers meeting center for a free “weigh in” – a simple assessment gauging whether your weight is within a healthy range.

The Great American Weigh In will help you figure out your body mass index or BMI, a simple measurement of weight in relation to height. People who discover they need to lose weight can also get information on how to take off pounds in a healthy way.

To find out more about the Great American Weigh In, contact the American Cancer Society at
1-800-ACS-2345 or

Cervical Cancer Tests and Screenings

Source: American Cancer Society, February 2003

Cervical Cancer Facts

  • The cervix is part of the uterus (or womb). Cancers that start in the cervix are called cervical cancer.

  • This year, about 13,000 women will develop invasive cervical cancer, and about 4,100 women will die of the disease. Most of these deaths could be prevented if more women had tests to find cervical cancer early.

  • Cervical cancer is usually caused by a sexually transmitted virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV). But most HPV infections will not lead to cancer.

  • Cigarette smoking increases the risk of cervical cancer.

Understanding Tests for Cervical Cancer

Pap tests check cells from the cervix under a microscope. The goal is to find cervical cancer at a stage that is easy to cure, and to find early changes in the cells that may potentially progress to cancer. These “precancerous” cells can be removed and/or treated to stop a cancer from developing. The “conventional” Pap test involves obtaining a sample of cells from a woman’s cervix and smearing them on a microscope slide. The newer liquid-based Pap test involves placing the cells in a special liquid first and then onto a slide.

Pap tests are good, but not perfect. Their results sometimes appear normal even when a woman has abnormal cells of the cervix. Fortunately, most cervical precancers grow slowly. So having a Pap test at least every three years will find almost all cervical abnormalities before they progress to cancer. Cervical cancer is very curable if found early.

HPV and Cervical Cancer

Almost all cervical cancers contain DNA from certain “high-risk” types of HPV. Infection with these HPV types may lead to changes in the cells of the cervix. Certain changes, called high-grade lesions, may progress to cervical cancer if not treated. Most HPV infections, however, go away by themselves and cause no symptoms or cell changes. One purpose of cervical cancer screening is to find high-grade changes that can progress to cancer. If found, they can be removed. This can prevent them from becoming cervical cancer.

Research has shown that tests for HPV may be a useful addition to Pap tests in women older than 30. HPV tests are already used to help doctors decide which women with certain kinds of small changes in the cells of their cervix need further testing. However, as of November of 2002, the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved HPV tests for use in routine testing for women who have not had an abnormal Pap test result.

The American Cancer Society Recommendations

  • Cervical cancer screening should begin approximately three years after a woman begins having vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years of age.

  • Cervical screening should be done every year with regular Pap tests or every two years using liquid-based tests. At or after age 30, women who have had three normal test results in a row may get screened every 2-3 years. But doctors may suggest getting the test more often if a woman has certain risk factors such as HIV infection or a weak immune system.

  • Women 70 years of age and older who have had three or more normal Pap tests and no abnormal Pap tests in the last 10 years may choose to stop cervical cancer screening.

  • Screening after total hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) is not necessary unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or precancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix should continue cervical cancer screening at least until age 70.

Increasing the Accuracy of Pap Tests

There are some things women can do to make their Pap test as accurate as possible:

  • Try not to schedule an appointment for a time during the menstrual period.

  • Do not douche for 48 hours prior to the test.

  • Do not have sexual intercourse 48 hours before the test.

  • Do not use tampons, birth control foams, jellies, or other vaginal creams or vaginal medications for 48 hours before the test.

Pelvic Examination vs. Pap Test

Many people confuse pelvic examinations with Pap tests. The pelvic exam is part of a woman’s routine health care. During a pelvic exam, the doctor looks at and feels the reproductive organs, including the uterus and the ovaries, and may screen for sexually transmitted diseases. But the pelvic exam will not find cervical cancer at an early stage, and cannot find abnormal cells of the cervix. The Pap test is usually done just before the pelvic exam, when the doctor removes cells from the cervix by gently scraping or brushing with a special instrument. Pelvic exams may help find other types of cancers and reproductive problems, but only Pap tests will provide information on early cervical cancer or precancers.

To find out more about the Cervical Cancer Tests and Screenings, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or

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