This ‘C’ word has always stirred fear in me. When I was just 16, I visited the home for terminally ill cancer patients and since then I haven’t been able to get the faces of those people who knew they could die anytime off my mind. Sounds morbid but only those who go through it know the pain of it. This makes me think,how do we support cancer patients and show them that we care. How do we fight this dreaded disease? Wearing wristbands or shaving off your head is not the solution. Be aware and create awareness. Of course, prevention is not 100% in our hand but we can minimize our risk to fall prey to cancer and share this with our loved ones. Statistics show many cancer cases could have been prevented had the patients been educated about regular screening.
The Crispy Corner’s aim is to spread this awareness to their readers. We recently attended a talk show, which spoke on this theme.
It is important to understand the cause of cancer.2013 saw 600,000 cases of Cancer in US.200, 000 cases were due to smoking.100, 000 was obesity caused cancer. Another 100,000 was due to genetic factors and the rest were linked to nutrition and virus. Therefore it is important for people to understand these causes and target to reduce risk in each of these areas
Cut down smoking – Cancer has no time and reason. It can occur anywhere and anytime but smoking is a sure shot way to increasing your chances. Stop it now. Not only do you reduce your risk but also of the near and dear ones who inhale tobacco due to passive smoking
Reduce red meat –Red meat is any meat which is red and not white when cooked. This includes beef and mutton. Various studies have linked consumptions of red meat to colorectal and pancreatic cancer. It is recommended to avoid red meat but if you have to, then limit your intake to less than 300 g of unprocessed red meat a week
Note down your family history and pass it in your will – It is important to understand your family history and make your kids, spouse and family aware of it. Genetics plays a big role in having cancer. If your mother has had breast cancer, there are high chances your daughter might have the gene too. If your father has colon cancer, there is a high chance your daughter may get uterine cancer or son colon cancer. Scandinavians are more prone to ovarian cancer whereas Eastern European Jews are more inclined towards colon, breast and prostate cancer. African American has seen high rates of colon cancer. So note your roots and family history to determine your risks
Diet – A good diet is always recommended to reduce risks related to cancer. Doctors recommend Mediterranean diet, which includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, low fat milk, more fish, and a lot of water. Alcohol is discouraged. Moderate quantity of wine is acceptable (not more than 4 glasses of wine)
Multivitamin must be taken in controlled quantity – Doctors highly encourage vitamins and other nutrients to be gained through natural diet and NOT multivitamins. Supplements in large quantities can up the risk of cancer. Reduce use of supplements and multivitamins to as per need basis or during illness.
Protect yourself from the sun – Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer and one of the most preventable. Avoid midday sun. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. Use generous amounts of sunscreen when you’re outdoors, and reapply often and Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. These are just as damaging as natural sunlight.
Exercise – Maintaining a healthy weight might lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney. In addition to helping you control your weight, physical activity on its own might lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer.
Strive to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic physical activity. As a general goal, include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine — and if you can do more, even well.
Start screening at the right age –
Screening is not available for all type of cancers. Some of which people should be aware of the availability are:
PAP Smear –It is recommended to have a PAP Smear test for women every 3 years. This not only tests for cervical cancer but also helps to identify pre-cancerous cells if any
Mammogram-Women should start screening for breast cancer every year starting at the age of 40
Skin test – If you have a family history of melanoma (skin cancer) ensure you schedule a periodic skin test as per doctors recommendation
Prostate cancer screening– PSA (prostate specific antigen) test for annual screening of prostate cancer in men of age 50 and older is approved and recommended if there is a family history of cancer.
Colonoscopy – It is a method to test for colon cancer. Colonoscopy looks at the structure of the colon to find any abnormal areas or polyps associated with colon cancer. How often you should be screened depends on the test and your risk for colon cancer. Screening generally starts at age 50 because colon cancer risk increases with age, and more than 90 percent of cases occur in people ages 50 and over If you’re at average risk and choose colonoscopy, you should have the procedure every 10 years, starting at age 50. Colonoscopy may be performed earlier and more often in people at increased risk, including those with a personal or family history of polyps or colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.
Hepatitis B- Hepatitis B can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for certain high-risk adults — such as adults who are sexually active but not in a mutually monogamous relationship, people with sexually transmitted infections, intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men, and health care or public safety workers who might be exposed to infected blood or body fluids.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)- HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical and other genital cancers as well as squamous cell cancers of the head and neck. The HPV vaccine is available to both men and women age 26 or younger who didn’t have the vaccine as adolescents.
Cancer like many other things at the end of the day may not be in our complete control but what we can do is try our best to minimize the risk. Live a healthy lifestyle not only for yourself but also for your near and dear ones whose life is associated with you. Ensure you go for an annual checkup with your doctor and discuss these preventive measures for a low risk lifestyle.
Cancer is an expensive disease.If you are looking to support cancer patients, instead of shaving your head ,donate for the treatment of many underprivileged people who do not have the financial access to screen cancer or undergo treatments. There are many foundations and NGO you can donate to if you want.Look them up to show your support.
Source : Mayo clinic, talk by MSKCC foundation