Can you prevent cancer?
There are things you can do to lower your risk.
Carolyn Tillo Published: 12/4/2019
There are plenty of lists out there on the web that outline the possible signs and symptoms of cancer. The American Cancer Society is a trusted source that offers the following tips:
It can be scary reading through a list like this, and those with any of these symptoms should talk to their physician.
But, to reduce your anxiety when scrolling through these signs and symptoms, there are actions you can take that can significantly reduce the chance of getting certain cancers in the first place, or to detect cancer before symptoms develop.
Before any of these signs and symptoms appear, your goal should be figuring out how you can be more proactive in caring for your health.
“We hope to catch many cancers before the patient has symptoms because in general, that means we’ve caught them at an earlier stage, and the cure rate will be higher,” said Christopher Pezzi, MD, FACS, surgeon-in-chief and head of surgical oncology at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center.
He said preventive measures like those listed below can help you reduce your cancer risk:
- Avoid smoking to reduce the risk of lung cancer, kidney and bladder cancer, head and neck cancer and other cancers.
- Avoid sun exposure and tanning beds to reduce skin cancer risk.
- Get screened for colorectal cancer to remove pre-cancerous polyps and prevent cancer.
- Get yourself and your children immunized against HPV (which causes most cervical cancers, many head and neck cancers and several other cancers in men and women) and for hepatitis B (which can cause liver cancer).
- Avoid excess body fat/obesity, which increases the risk of post-menopausal breast, uterine, colorectal and pancreatic cancers.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
- If there is a strong history of cancer in your family, discuss with your doctor if genetic testing is appropriate for you, and how your family history of cancer might change how you should be screened for cancers. Genetic testing has become much less expensive and is often covered by insurance plans as well.
Early detection is another way to spot cancer before symptoms appear. This includes annual mammograms and periodic Pap smears and HPV testing for women and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test screenings for men.
If any of these symptoms do appear and last for more than two to three weeks, talk to your physician because symptoms of cancer generally persist and even get worse over time, according to Dr. Pezzi. Some symptoms, like unexpected bleeding, need to be reported right away.
“There are going to be a lot of false alarms, but that’s OK. We would rather have someone tell their primary care physician about a symptom and not find cancer than have someone presenting with an advanced-stage cancer that we can’t do as much about because he or she didn’t come in earlier,” Dr. Pezzi said.
If you have a question about a cancer sign or symptom that concerns you, talk to your doctor. If you need a primary care doctor, visit baptistjax.com or be matched to the right doctor for you by calling call 904.202.4968. If you need a cancer specialist, please call 904.202.7300 or visit BaptistMDAnderson.com.
Source: American Cancer Society