What You Need to Know About Cancer

Cancer Awareness Month

Nearly 40% of the population will be diagnosed with some form of cancer over the course of their lifetime1. In women, the three most common cancers are breast, lung, and colorectal while the three most common cancers in men are prostate, lung, and colorectal.

While cancer remains common, the medical profession has made many leaps and bounds in how it's detected, diagnosed, and treated over the years. Raising your awareness of cancer, including increasing your knowledge of how to determine your risk, lower your risk, and detect malignancies early on, can help you live a longer and healthier life.

Know Your Cancer Risk

Some people have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancers than other people. A variety of factors influence cancer risk, from family history to age and from social habits to work environment. One way to determine your cancer risk is to take a Healthaware assessment. The assessment will ask you a series of questions to evaluate your risk of developing colon, lung, or breast cancer. It can be a useful tool to help you plan for cancer screening and to determine other preventative measures to take.

How to Lower Cancer Risk

A few risk factors for cancer are out of your control. You can't change your age or family history, for instance. But others can be controlled by you. For example, if you smoke, you can decide to quit smoking or using tobacco, lowering your risk of developing several types of cancer. If you drink alcohol, you can cut back or eliminate it entirely to lower your risk.

Other changes you can make to help reduce your overall cancer risk include:

  • Improve your diet: Eating a healthy diet, one that contains a lot of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, can help to reduce your risk of cancer. If you follow a healthy diet, you are more likely to keep your weight at a healthy level, which can also reduce cancer risk.
  • Get more exercise: Exercising is another way to maintain a healthy weight. In addition to lowering cancer risk, getting the recommended amount of exercise (about 150 minutes per week for adults) can help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other conditions.
  • Get vaccinated: Some viral infections can increase your cancer risk. Certain vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine and the hepatitis B vaccine, might help to lower your risk of cancers, particularly cervical cancer and liver cancer.
  • Limit sun exposure: Along with lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers, skin cancer is very common. One way to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer is to minimize sun exposure. Always wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days and when you aren't going to be outside for very long. Try to avoid being outdoors in the sun for extended periods.

How to Detect Cancer Early

If cancer does develop, the sooner it is detected and treated, the better. Many screening tools are available that can help to detect tumors in the earliest phases. Mammograms can detect tumors in the breasts early on while colonoscopies can detect potentially malignant changes in the colon.

The types of screening tests that are appropriate for you depend on your age and history. Mammograms are usually recommended for women over age 50 (sometimes over age 40) and lung cancer screening are recommended for people over the age of 55 who currently smoke or who smoked within the past 15 years. Discuss your cancer screening options with your physician at your next check-up.

In addition to scheduling cancer screenings as appropriate, paying attention to your body and to any changes in it can help you detect the earliest signs of cancer. Changes to pay attention to include unusual bleeding, a cough that won't go away, new lumps or pain in the breasts, changes in your bowel habits, and sores that won't heal. Schedule an appointment with your family doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary or concerning.

How to Treat Cancer

While no one wants to receive a cancer diagnosis, you can rest assured that treatments for various kinds of cancers have come a long way over the years. Today's treatments can include advanced surgical techniques, immune therapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Parrish Healthcare has partnered with the Mayo Clinic to deliver the best possible cancer care to our patients. In the event of a cancer diagnosis, you can rest assured that you have the best team possible working for you, aiming to provide you with treatment and care that meets your needs and aligns with your values.

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1. Cancer Statistics, National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics

2. Risk Factors for Cancer, National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk

3. Cancer Prevention, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/cancer-prevention/art-20044816

4. The 10 Commandments of Cancer Prevention, Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-10-commandments-of-cancer-prevention

5. Healthy Choices, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/other.htm

6. Cancer Screening, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/screening.htm

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