Take tip from calendar, get screened for cancer
Have you ever you wondered why you don’t spend more time enjoying your surroundings?
When was the last time you took a tour of an historic home, walked through beautiful Azalea Park in Summerville, drove out to Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, or simply took a stroll on the beach? It is so easy to fall into a predictable pattern of daily living.
Unfortunately, at times this can mean missing out on some of the best things life has to offer.
And so we are with our health. Publius Syrus, a Latin writer of maxims (or sayings) wrote in 42 BC, “Good health and good sense are two of life’s greatest blessings.”
It makes sense that sometimes, good health and good sense go hand in hand, but we may be too busy to notice. When was the last time you called your doctor to set an appointment for a physical or R.S.V.P.’d for a community health event? It seems that if only we would make the time, we might feel better.
Did you know that April is cancer control month and that May is skin cancer prevention month? The health observances calendar is full of dates that emphasize the importance of learning more about cancer, its causes, our risk factors and what we can do minimize the risk factors we can control.
Sometimes, it’s not only our busy lifestyle, but also fear that can prevent us from learning how we can better care for ourselves.
According to Richard McDonough, M.D., Oncologist/Hematologist Carolina Cancer and Blood Care Specialists, LLC, the fear of a cancer diagnosis can even keep us from being healthy.
“The fears related to cancer can paralyze many people in pursuing screening because they are convinced a screening will inevitably lead to a cancer diagnosis,” said Dr. McDonough. “
Also, specific fears related to each cancer are present.” Some of these fears, he explained, include privacy and self-image concerns that can arise during a total body skin cancer screening, where removal of clothing is necessary.
Colorectal screenings bring up frustrations about using stool cards and uncomfortable aspects of lower endoscopy procedures. For men, prostate screenings can bring up fears of rectal exams. Also, costs of screening tests and related diagnostic studies may reduce participation.
What can be done to help reduce these fears? According to the American Cancer Society, cancers that can be prevented or detected earlier by screening, account for at least half of all new cancer cases.
These cancers include: breast, colon, rectum, cervix, prostate, oral cavity and skin cancer at early stages. Perhaps knowing that one can help reduce his or her risk by just asking their doctor should be a motivator.
Education on the realities of the screening processes and the availability of information about those screenings, Dr. McDonough added, should encourage us to seek out screenings.
“The single biggest lifestyle impact relates to tobacco,” Dr. McDonough said. “Malignancies associated with tobacco include lung cancer, leukemias, and cancers of the oral cavity, nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, cervix, kidney, colon, and bladder.
Avoiding tobacco products (including oral tobacco) and moderating alcohol intake are important for oral, GI and airway cancers.”
Dr. McDonough adds that other important factors include maintaining a reasonable body mass index (the number, derived by using height and weight measurements, that gives a general indication if a person’s weight falls within a healthy range); increasing exercise to help avoid increased breast cancer risk from higher estrogen exposure, limiting intake of smoked foods to lower risk of some GI cancers, including more fiber in the diet to lower colon cancer risk and decreasing fat in our diets to help reduce prostate cancer risks.
What if you are at high risk due to your family history of cancer?
According to Dr. McDonough, individuals with a strong family history should communicate this to their doctor and begin screening earlier, keeping in mind that risk-lowering strategies would vary depending on the details of the family history.
or example, he added, “a woman with a strong family history of breast cancer should maintain reasonable weight, avoid heavy alcohol intake, participate in screenings (data may emerge on newer methods of screening such as MRI and mammography techniques), and get assessed for benefit from chemoprevention (medications such as tamoxifen and raloxifene).”
How can you do your part in controlling cancer this year? Why not start by calling your physician to set an appointment for a physical.
If you do not currently have a physician, you can contact Trident HealthFinders at 797-FIND or 1-866-TRIDENT. If you smoke, consider taking a smoking cessation class.
A schedule of dates and times, can be found at www.tridenthealthsystem.com by clicking on the community calendar. You can participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life to celebrate survivorship and to learn more about how education and research funded by the American Cancer Society is making a difference in our own community, or visit their website at www.cancer.org. Let’s all take a tip from the calendar and take steps toward cancer prevention in 2008!