Ask the CIS/Healthy Lifestyles for Children

Q: How can I help my children develop a healthy lifestyle?
A: You can lead the way by example. Lifestyle habits begin at home at a very young age. If parents eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise, their children are more likely to do the same.
During the last 20 years, obesity rates have doubled among children and tripled among teens. Studies show that obesity may increase the risk for many diseases later in life, including several types of cancer. To help reverse this trend, parents can:
* Serve five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
* Shop for groceries with your children. Show them the many fruits and vegetables available. Let them choose their favorites. Suggest that they try new ones.
* Keep fresh fruit and cut-up vegetables handy for snacks.
* Take watermelon, strawberries and other fresh fruits to children’s parties.
* Show your kids that you get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (walking, biking, swimming) on most days. Include them when you can.
* Plan active family outings, such as hiking.
* Expect older children to help with vacuuming, mowing the lawn, and other chores.
For more information on healthy eating, go to the 5 A Day Web site at www.5aday.gov. For more tips on youth fitness, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site at www.dhhs.gov and click on “Safety and Wellness” and then “Exercise and Fitness.”
Q: Which types of cancer affect only women?
A: Several types of cancer affect a woman’s reproductive system, which includes the cervix, uterus, ovary, vagina and vulva. Cancer in each of these organs is a separate disease. Together, they are called gynecologic cancers. The reproductive organs most often affected by cancer are the cervix, uterus and ovary.
Cervical cancer is the most preventable gynecologic cancer. A pelvic exam and Pap test (or Pap smear) can find cervical cancer, as well as abnormal cells that can develop into cervical cancer. If the abnormal cells are found early enough, treatment can prevent cervical cancer. Regular Pap tests can find cervical cancer long before symptoms (such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or increased discharge) develop.
Uterine, or endometrial, cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer. The chief symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding, usually after menopause. Bleeding may start as a watery, blood-streaked flow that gradually contains more blood. Other symptoms are difficult urination or pain in the pelvic area. There is no screening test for uterine cancer.
Ovarian cancer is the most serious of the three diseases. It is difficult to find ovarian cancer at an early stage. Tell your doctor if you have symptoms such as gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating or cramps in the abdomen. Other symptoms may include nausea, changes in bowel or bladder habits, loss of appetite, unexplained weight changes, and abnormal bleeding from the vagina.
It is important that all women have regular check-ups by their doctor. This is the best way to find problems that may lead to cancer. However, any woman should see a doctor right away if she has any of the symptoms described above or other health problems.
For more information and free booklets on cancers that affect women, call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER. Or go to www.cancer.gov and select a specific type of cancer.
The National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service (CIS) is one of the country’s most trusted resources. “Ask the CIS” is distributed by the Mid Atlantic CIS, which serves the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Call the CIS toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.