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Cancer Prevention

If you are looking through this site, you most likely have already been diagnosed with a rare cancer.  So, you are probably wondering why I would be discussing prevention at this point.  I have several friends that I have met in my travels with multiple cancers that were found in their bodies at different times in their lives.  So, we as cancer patients, still have to be diligent about preventing other cancers.

There is strong scientific evidence that a healthy diet, combined with regular physical activity, is not only are needed to maintain a healthful body weight but will also reduce cancer risk. Some studies have found that people eating diets high in vegetables and fruits, and low in meat and/or animal fats have reduced risk of some the most common cancers.

There are certain elements that may predispose you to cancer that you have no control over.  For example, everyone ages, regardless of how hard some of us try not to age.  The risk of many cancers increase with age.  Also, we don't get to choose the family that we are born into.  There is a familial predisposition to some cancers.  The one thing that we can have some control over is environmental causes of cancer.  Decreasing your exposure to any of these elements may decrease your risk of cancer.  They include:

Tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke.

Moderate to heavy alcohol use.

Sedentary lifestyle.

Obesity caused by a diet high in animal fat and low in fruits and vegetables.

Exposure to certain active chemical compounds (some pesticides, insecticides, herbicides)

Repeated exposure to certain forms of radiation, including ionizing and ultraviolet.

Exposure to certain sexually transmitted infections.

Exposure to cancer-causing infectious agents.

Repeated exposure to radon gas.

Exposure to strong UV rays or repeated sunburn.

Repeated exposure to chemical carcinogens.

Obviously, routine follow-ups for your current cancer diagnosis are crucial.  Just as important are routine screenings for other forms of cancer.  Recommended screenings include:

Breast self examination every month 

Breast exam by a medical professional yearly for age 40+; and every three years for age 20-39

Breast mammogram yearly at age 40+

Prostate specific antigen blood test (PSA) each year at 50+

Yearly digital rectal exam at 40+

Yearly fecal occult blood test for age 50+

Flexible colonoscopy age 40+

Yearly pap test & pelvic exam (may be decreased if 3+ consecutive years produce clean results)

Skin cancer exam each year for those who have resided in areas of high UV exposure for 10yrs or more

Yearly exam of thyroid, testicles, mouth, ovaries, skin, & lymph nodes age 40+, 20-39 every 3 years 

Endometrial biopsy for those at high risk for uterine cancer, starting at  40+

I need to point out that I have had a few male friends with breast cancer, so you men would benefit from doing a self examination also.  And as uncomfortable as it may be ladies, you should be having a digital rectal exam.

To read more about cancer prevention, go to these websites:

ACS - downloadable audio file on preventing cancer based on Dr. Huerta's center.

Cancer Research UK - extensive info on cancer prevention.

NCI Division of Cancer Prevention - lifestyle and preventing cancers.