Denial, dread, fear, anger, hopelessness. These are just a few feelings that come to mind when you hear the word “cancer.”
Cancer has no friends. It is a bully that will pick on anyone of any age, gender, or race. In fact, one of every four deaths in the United States is from cancer. This is second only to heart disease.
Despite those statistics, it is important to know that many advances have been made in cancer research and treatment. The rates for how often cancer occurs and how many deaths it causes continue to drop. And how long people survive after cancer has increased for all cancers combined. Many physicians believe cancer is becoming a chronic illness that is managed for many individuals, much like heart disease or diabetes.
During National Cancer Control Month this April, we need to continue supporting people who are fighting this disease, remember those we have lost, celebrate with the ones who have overcome cancer, and commit yourself to taking at least one step in preventing cancer.
Many cancer cases can be prevented. Unfortunately, people often wait until it’s too late. They wait until they have a health problem before making changes to their lifestyle that could have stopped the illness from happening.
The World Cancer Research Fund has estimated that up to one-third of the cancer cases in the United States are related to not getting enough exercise, being overweight or obese, and/or eating poorly.
Here are some things you can do to lower your risk of getting cancer:
Stop smoking. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Men should have no more than two drinks per day. Women should have no more than one drink per day. Drinking more than the recommended amounts of alcohol could increase your risk of several types of cancer.
Eat a healthy diet.Include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Exercise regularly. Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity each day. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is strong evidence that physical activity is associated with lowering your risk of cancers of the colon and breast.
Limit sun exposure and avoid indoor tanning. More than three million skin cancer cases are diagnosed each year. Many could be prevented by protecting your skin.
Protect yourself from viruses that are linked to cancer.These include human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and Helicobacter pylori. Protect yourself by getting vaccinated and changing behaviors where you could be exposed to these viruses, such as practicing safe sex.
Along with prevention, taking advantage of appropriate cancer screenings is another good defense against cancer. Regular screenings with your doctor or healthcare provider can help you detect cancer early, before you have any symptoms. This is often when cancer is easiest to treat and has better outcomes.
Under the Affordable Care Act, all Marketplace (Exchange) plans and many other insurance plans must cover these cancer screenings:
- Colorectal cancer (for adults over age 50)
- Breast cancer (mammogram every 1-2 years for women over age 40)
- Cervical cancer (for sexually active women)
Don’t let cancer win. Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider to learn what preventive actions and screening tests are right for you.❦