What if you could do something to avoid cancer? In some cases, you can. In fact, nearly half of cancers diagnosed in the U.S. can be attributed to preventable causes.
That means the choices you make every day can actually help protect you from an increased risk of many types of cancer. Some are things you’d expect, but others might surprise you.
Cancer Prevention Month is a great time to take stock of the ways you can help improve your health and head off cancer, today and in the future.
- Don’t use tobacco and drink only in moderation.
- Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight.
- Be physically active.
- Protect yourself from the sun.
- Get regular cancer screening exams.
- Get vaccinated for the human papillomavirus (HPV) and avoid infections that contribute to cancer (hepatitis viruses and HIV).
- Check your home for radon, which increases the risk of lung cancer.
- Avoid exposure to industrial and environmental toxins such as asbestos fibers, benzene, aromatic amines and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
- Talk to your physician about low-dose aspirin. Some studies have shown that men who take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs appear to have a lower risk of colon cancer and possibly prostate cancer.
- Talk to your physician about vitamin D (800 to 1,000 IU/day). Some evidence suggests that vitamin D may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer and other malignancies.
Keep an Eye on Common Symptoms
While cancer screening tests are essential because they help detect a malignancy at its earliest stages, you can always be on alert for symptoms of cancers. The American Cancer Society developed this simple reminder of things to watch for:
C: Change in bowel or bladder habits
A: A sore that does not heal
U: Unusual bleeding or discharge
T: Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere
I: Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
O: Obvious change in a wart or mole
N: Nagging cough or hoarseness
When it comes to healthy habits and cancer prevention, no one’s perfect. You may be doing great with regular check-ups and screenings, but need to get more activity into your day. Or you’re protecting yourself from sun exposure but still trying to quit tobacco. That’s okay. Know what you need to do next and make this the year you improve your lifestyle and help protect yourself from an increased cancer. Primary care providers at CHI St. Alexius Health can help you develop an individualized plan that will minimize your risk for cancer and maximize your overall health. And if you or are a loved one find yourself on a cancer journey, the Leonard P. Nelson Cancer Center at CHI St. Alexius Health is here to join you in this fight.
Bruce Pugatch, MD