How to Prevent From Cancer
While it’s not possible to prevent all cancer, research has shown that there are ways to reduce your risk of getting cancer through things you do, and things you can avoid doing, in your everyday life. When we think of cancer risk, that refers to things that can cause us to get cancer.
When we think of cancer prevention, that refers to things we can do to reduce our risk of cancer. There are some things that we have control over and some that we don’t. I want to talk about the things that we have control over in terms of cancer risk factors.
These include what are called lifestyle factors. It refers to smoking and diet and exercise. Smoking is one of the leading causes of several types of cancer and quitting smoking is one way to significantly reduce your risk. I recognize in my practice that quitting smoking is the hardest thing that people ever do and, all too often, we dismiss that and say you just have to have more willpower.
The good news is that there are programs and people who can help with this. And if you want to quit smoking, you can connect with a healthcare provider who will help you do that. Maintaining a healthy diet is also an important way you can reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
And that may not be as complicated as you think. In terms of cancer prevention, diet is very important. I talk to a lot of people and there’s confusion about what diet is the best to prevent. But we can simplify this to say five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is the best way to reduce your cancer risk.
This is because fruits and vegetables contain that are called phytochemicals and these are the chemicals that help the body and help the immune system resist cancer. Some people read about supplements and think they can get their phytochemicals through supplements,
but it turns out that they are more effective if they come in the course of fruits and vegetables in a normal diet. So our message is, let your kitchen be your medicine cabinet and work on those five servings a day. Another lifestyle factor that can cut your risk of developing cancer is regular physical activity.
What we’re talking about is a conscious effort to exercise 15 or 30 minutes a day where you’re walking at a brisk pace or doing some form of moderate exercise. One way to know whether it’s a moderate exercise not, you want to walk at a pace where you can carry on a conversation with someone,
but you wouldn’t have enough breath to sing a song. The experts have found that 30 minutes a day five days a week for 150 minutes a week of exercise has been helpful in Reducing the Risk of Disease. So my message would be to find a way to work into your routine getting that 150 minutes a week. It’s different for different people,
but I encourage all of my patients and myself and my family and friends to set aside that time and make it a priority as if it were a medical prescription in and of itself. If exercise were a drug, it would be a billion-dollar blockbuster but is something we can do for free if we can just take the time to do it.
Trying to control the amount of stress in your life is also important when it comes to lowering your risk of developing Disease. Talk with your doctor about a stress reduction program that may be right for you. Stress reduction refers to those things that can do in our lifestyle that reduce the amount of inflammation in our body.
And the scientists who have shown that you can measure cortisol and other inflammatory chemicals in the body and these contribute not only to the risk of disease, but also heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses. Some people have found meditation to be helpful,
others find yoga to be helpful. What we’ve learned, however, is that diet and exercise are not just nice things to do, but they are key to improving our stress, key to reducing inflammation, and the key to helping us reduce our risk factors for cancer. So if we can exercise regularly,
eat healthily, and then do things like meditation and biofeedback to reduce our stress, we can really help ourselves. To learn more about how a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing certain cancers, visit Cancer.Net/Prevention. There’s one resource that I can recommend and it is www.cancer.net. This is the resource provided by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
It is written for the public to understand. It describes different kinds of cancer but also describes diet, exercise, and lifestyle things that we can do to control Dangerous disease.
Diagnosing and Preventing Cancer
Thinking about cancer can be scary, but like with most challenges in life the more we know about it the better we can face and fight the disease. First, it’s important to know that many cancers can be prevented by eating wisely, being active, not smoking, and limiting how much alcohol you drink. Besides having a healthy lifestyle it’s also important to get recommended cancer-screening tests,
the good news is when found early most cancers are much easier to treat. Let’s take a closer look at 3 of the most common types of cancers; lung, breast, and colorectal cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer deaths by far; can you guess the number one cause of lung cancer?
That’s right, it’s smoking cigarettes. Right now there are about 430,000 living with this cancer in the US. Often lung cancer has no symptoms until it spreads, but, sometimes symptoms may include cough or respiratory infection that won’t go away, coughing up blood, and hoarseness.
If you have any of these you should see your doctor. To diagnose lung cancer tests like x-rays and MRIs are used to know for sure a sample of lung tissue is tested. VA Recommends screening for lung cancer for people ages 55-80 who have smoked one pack a day for 30 years and are still smoking or if they quit less than 15 years ago. Next, the most common cancer found in women; breast cancer.
In fact, one in 8 women will have breast cancer in their life and a small number of men will have it too. Unfortunately, they’re often no symptoms but the most common one finding a lump. Others may include swelling, skin irritation, and breast pain. If you have any of these you should see your doctor.
To diagnose breast cancer mammograms, ultrasounds and MRI’s take images; a biopsy may also be taken to test for cancer. To screen for early signs of breast cancer, VA recommends a mammogram for women every year if you are 45-54. If you’re 40-44 you may choose to start annual mammograms, screening under age 40 may be recommended if you are high risk. Discuss your risk level with your provider.
If you are 55-74 you should have a mammogram every 1-2 years. Some women 75 or older should also get screened. Unlike breast cancer, colorectal affects men and women almost equally and is the third most common type of cancer. It usually starts with growth or polyp inside the colon or rectum and takes several years to develop into cancer. Like many cancers, there are often no symptoms in the early stages.
if you do have them, they may include rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, a change in bowel habits, and cramping. If you have any of these you should see your doctor. Screening tests have different risks, benefits, and recommended frequency. To look for signs of colorectal cancer tests may be based on a stool sample or direct colon view tests such as colonoscopy or CT colonography.
VA recommends adults ages50-75 be screened for colorectal cancer. Earlier screening under age 50 may be recommended if you are at high risk. Discuss your risk level with your provider. If you are ages 76-85, screening may also be recommended for some. With regular screening, polyps can be removed before they have a chance to turn into cancer. When it comes to treating lung, breast, and colorectal many of the same therapies are used, their job is to remove and destroy cancer cells.
These therapies include surgery, chemotherapy, and other medicines, radiation, immunotherapy, and hormone therapy. And now, you’re probably wondering which screenings you should get and when? Your VA health care team can help identify which tests are best for you based on your medical risk and family history.
Remember preventing cancer starts with reducing your risk by living a healthy lifestyle, then be sure to get the recommended screenings to look for before you show any signs so it can be treated early. For more information visit www.prevention.va.gov.