Most of us have been touched by cancer in some way. Even if we haven’t had cancer ourselves, we know someone who has. While there are many factors that influence whether or not someone gets cancer, it is now known that non-inherited factors play a much larger role than genetics.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012, some 1,638,910 Americans will develop cancer, and 577,190 will die from it. Tobacco use is responsible for about one in five cancer deaths or about 173,200 deaths each year. Another 192,400 cancer deaths will be caused by poor nutrition, physical inactivity, overweight, and obesity. Because these are factors which the average person can control, this means that nearly 65% of cancer deaths could be prevented.
There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of getting cancer. These include:
Don’t use tobacco. Tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of disease and early death in the United States. According to one study, people who quit smoking at age 60, 50, 40, or 30 gained three, six, nine, or 10 years of life expectancy, respectively.
Lose weight and eat right. Physical inactivity and poor nutrition are second only to tobacco use as a risk factor for developing cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends the following:
Get regular screenings. The purpose of screening tests is to identify cancer or premalignant abnormalities so that they can be removed before cancer develops or spreads, or treated during the early cancer stages when treatment is more effective.
Many types of cancer can be detected in the early stages through the use of screening tests. These include breast, cervical, colorectal, prostate, and lung cancer.
Breast cancer screening. As the value of regular mammograms has become more and more obvious, the numbers of women getting them has more than doubled. The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older have yearly mammogram screenings. In 1987, just 29 percent of women received a mammogram within the previous two years; by 2010, it had risen to 66.5. For women who are considered at higher risk for breast cancer, annual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also recommended beginning at age 30.
Cervical cancer screening. The incidence of cervical cancer and mortality rates have dropped 67 percent in the past 30 years, primarily due to the Pap test which detects cervical cancer and precancerous lesions. Woman with precancerous lesions have nearly a 100 percent survival rate when the lesions are caught early and treated appropriately. The value of regular Pap test screening is underscored by statistics showing that 60-80 percent of women with advanced cervical cancer have not had a Pap test in the past five years.
Today, some 76.4 percent of women age 18 years and older report having a Pap test within the past three years. As a result, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully controlled cancers in developed countries.
The relatively recent introduction of a vaccine that protects against infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) has the potential to further reduce cervical cancer rates. HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and virtually all cervical cancers are related to infections with HPV. The vaccine is recommended for females 9 to 26 years of age. It has also been approved for use in males 9 to 26 years of age to prevent genital warts and anal cancer (about 90 percent of anal cancers have been linked to the HPV infection).
Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Screenings are vital because the relative five-year survival rate is 90 percent for CRC patients who are diagnosed early.
Unfortunately, only 39 percent of cases are caught at this stage. While the use of colonoscopy and other types of tests can catch colorectal cancer early, nearly half of all adults over the age of 50 do not get screened for it.
Prostate cancer screening. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among American men – and second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death. However, mortality rates are dropping and it is thought to be partially because of early detection as a result of the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA). Some prostate cancers grow slowly and may never cause any problems, while others are more aggressive. For this reason, the American Cancer Society recommends that, beginning at age 50, asymptomatic men who are in good health and have at least a 10-year life expectancy should make an informed decision about screening after talking to their doctor about the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits.
Lung cancer screening. Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer mortality, accounted for 28 percent of all cancer deaths in 2012. Until recently, screening for lung cancer had not been shown to lower death rates. However, a trial in 2010 did show that the application of low-dose spiral computed tomography (LCDT) scans significantly outperformed chest x-rays in both sensitivity and detection rates of small, early stage lung cancers, and reduced lung cancer mortality by 20 percent.
The type of cancer treatment prescribed will vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer. The most effective treatment(s) will generally include one or more of the following:
Surgery often offers the greatest chance for a cure, especially if the cancer has not spread. Because it is used to both diagnose and treat, most people with cancer will have some type of surgery.
Chemotherapy (chemo) involves the use of medicines or drugs to treat cancer.
Radiation Therapy uses high-energy particles or waves to destroy or damage cancer cells. It is one of the most common treatments for cancer, either by itself or in combination with other forms of treatment.
Targeted Therapy utilizes drugs or other substances to more precisely identify and attack cancer cells, usually while doing little damage to normal cells. This newer form of treatment is a growing part of many cancer treatment regimens.
Immunotherapy treatment uses the patient’s own immune system to help fight the cancer.
Hyperthermia involves using heat to treat cancer. Although hyperthermia has been around for a long time, new tools now allow a more precise delivery of heat.
Bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cell transplant involve replacing the patient’s bone marrow and stem cells after they have been destroyed by disease, chemotherapy or radiation. Stem cells primarily live in the bone marrow where they perform the vital life function of making new blood cells. The replacement procedure is called either a bone marrow transplant, a peripheral blood stem cell transplant, or a cord blood transplant, depending on where the cells came from.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) uses special drugs, called photosensitizing agents, along with light to kill cancer cells. The drugs must be activated by certain kinds of light to work.
Lasers are very powerful, precise beams of light that can be used instead of scalpels for very careful surgical work, including treating some cancers.
Molecular Targeted Therapy involves the use of targeted drugs that selectively act against molecular targets in some tumors. Because the goal of this therapy is to interfere with tumor growth, it has the potential to become a revolutionary change in the treatment of cancer.
Would you like to eat and cook more healthily, but wish you had better guidance than the usual, “eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals; and fewer doughnuts, pies, cakes and cookies?” Well, here’s the guidance you need!
Heart-healthy eating can be easy and low-stress if you plan ahead and keep your pantry stocked with the right ingredients. The following guidelines from the American Heart Association can help you get the heart-healthy kitchen you want:
Social Wellness involves the interdependence between people. When you are socially well, you are able to establish and maintain close, positive relationships with family, friends and co-workers. You understand it is better to live harmoniously with others rather than in conflict with them. And, you recognize it is better to contribute to the common good rather than thinking only of yourself.
Social wellness involves having empathy for others, being an effective listener, caring about others, and allowing others to care for you. It also involves caring about the environment and actively seeking ways to maintain the balance of nature and the community.
Social wellness is vital to wellbeing. People who are socially isolated have higher illness rates and a death rate two-to-three times higher than other people. The following are some tips for improving your level of social wellness:
In the next issue, we’ll take a closer look at Spiritual Wellness and the importance of believing that life has meaning and purpose.
Wellness involves making choices and adopting a way of life that helps you achieve balance across seven key areas:
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