February 4th, 2017
February is Cancer Prevention Month! Cancer prevention is an art and requires a combination of healthy choices, screenings, and regular conversations with your doctor. The following are some helpful tips that can be used to start a discussion with your doctor on ways to reduce your risk of cancer.
Know Your Family History:
Your family history can be a big clue into establishing which cancers you may be at highest riskfor. Write down the cancers on each side of the family, including who had the cancer and how old they were when they were diagnosed. Ask your relatives on both sides of the family and make sure to share this list with your doctor. If you have a family history of cancer, especially when it involves people under age 60, genetic counseling and genetic testing may be a helpful next-step to determining your risk.
One of the strongest ways to prevent cancer is to stay current on cancer screenings. The earlier a cancer is detected, the better the patient’s prognosis. How do you find early-stage cancers? Screening! For women, routine pap tests substantially reduce the risk of cervical cancer, making cervical cancer one of the most preventable cancers. Routine mammograms can help find breast cancer in early, more treatable stages. For both sexes, colonoscopies can reduce the risk of colon cancer by removing precancerous lesions called polyps. There are many types of additional cancer screening options, which are often selected by your doctor due to your personal and family history of cancer.
Vaccines do not replace the need for cancer screening, but can be used to reduce your risk of certain cancers. The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the culprit behind the majority of cases of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is a powerful tool in decreasing the risk of cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, and anal cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine can be used to reduce the risk of liver cancer, which is commonly caused by the hepatitis B virus.
Cigarettes are responsible for the majority of cases of lung and bladder cancers, but did you know that smoking can also increase your risk for many other cancers? If you’re a smoker and want to reduce your risk of cancer, quitting is one of the best choices you can make for your health. For those who do not smoke, try to avoid excessive second-hand smoke exposure. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. To prevent skin cancer, avoid excessive sun exposure and sun burns by wearing sunblock, avoid tanning beds, seek out shaded areas, and utilize hats and protective clothing. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases, including cancers. Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to increase the risk of a variety of cancers, including cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, breast, and colon so limit alcohol consumption to reduce your risk.