From Kristina Liming, MSN, APRN, Advanced Practice Provider at OHC

February 28, 2020

At OHC we treat cancer using the most advanced therapies and access to promising new treatments through clinical trials. We also provide you with information to help prevent cancer from developing. In recognition of National Cancer Prevention Month, here are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Don’t use tobacco products

Tobacco smoke has at least 70 chemicals that cause cancer, also known as carcinogens. Every time you inhale the smoke, those chemicals get into your bloodstream, which carries the chemicals to all parts of your body. As a result, smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body. You should also avoid other forms of tobacco, including vaping, electronic cigarettes, cigars, and dipping and chewing tobacco. Bottom line: If you don’t smoke or use tobacco, don’t start. If you do smoke or use tobacco, it’s never too late to quit.

If any of the following risk factors apply to you, you should speak with an OHC cancer specialist or your primary care doctor about getting a low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer.

  • Adults age 55 and older who are current or former smokers
  • People who have smoked one pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years
  • People who once smoked heavily but quit
  • People with a history of lung cancer
  • People who have other risk factors for lung cancer including those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), those with a family history of lung cancer and those who are exposed to asbestos at work

Limit alcohol

Studies around the world have shown that drinking alcohol regularly increases the risk of getting mouth, voice box, and throat cancers, primary liver cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer. As part of its guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention, the American Cancer Society recommends that people who drink alcohol limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women.

Get screened

Screenings save lives. They can find diseases early, before you have symptoms, when they’re easier to treat. At OHC, we know that getting the right screening test at the right time is one of the most important things we can do for our health. We recommend you talk with your primary care provider or one of our providers about your history and family’s history of cancer so together we can determine which screenings you should have and how often you should have them. To help you with your discussion, here are the most common annual cancer screenings.

Women

  • Pap Test. All women should begin screening for cervical cancer at age 21. Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test every three years. Beginning at age 30, women should be screened with a Pap test combined with a test for the human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years as long as the test results are normal. This is called co-testing and should continue until age 65.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test. HPV infection is a viral infection that commonly causes skin or mucous membrane growths (warts). There are more than 100 varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV). Some types of HPV infection cause warts and some can lead to different types of cancer. Doctors can test for HPV at the same time as a Pap test. The American Cancer Society recommends this combination for women 30 and older.
  • Mammograms. OHC recommends women begin annual mammograms at age 40 and continue through age 54. Women 55 and older can switch to mammograms every two years or can continue yearly screening. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

Men

  • Prostate Cancer Screening. Men should talk with their doctor about whether or not to be screened for prostate cancer. The discussion should include information about benefits, risks and any concerns about screenings so men are making the most-informed decision. The discussion about screening should take place at:
    • Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age)
    • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65)
    • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years
  • Testicular Cancer Screening. Men should begin examining their testicles every month after puberty and it should be part of their routine check-up with their doctor. Regular exams will allow men to more easily identify any changes. Always report any changes to your doctor right away.

Women and Men

  • Colon Cancer Screening. The American Cancer Society recently released an updated guideline recommending that colon cancer screening begin at age 45 for patients at average risk. This change was partially based on data showing that colon cancer rates have increased in young and middle-age populations. At OHC, we recommend people discuss with their doctor when to start screenings and how often to repeat them.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. HPV infection is a viral infection that can cause warts, and some can cause different types of cancer. Vaccines can help protect against the strains of HPV most likely to cause six types of cancer later in life. Talk with your healthcare provider about getting the vaccine for yourself or your children.
  • Head and neck cancer screening. OHC recommends a screening for head and neck cancer each year as part of an annual check-up for people who routinely drink alcohol, use tobacco products or have used tobacco products, have possible exposure to HPV, or are age 55 and older. This is a simple, quick procedure in which the doctor looks in the nose, mouth, and throat for abnormalities and feels for lumps in the neck. Also, people should ask their dentist to check for oral cancer during their regular dental checkups. Click here for a list of OHC head and neck cancer screening dates.
  • Skin cancer screening. At OHC, we recommend checking your skin once a month for anything unusual. A skin self-exam is best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You can use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see, such as the backs of your thighs. A spouse, partner, or close friend or family member may be able to help you with these exams, especially for those hard-to-see areas like your back or scalp. The first time you check your skin, notice the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks so you’ll notice any changes the next time you do a self-exam. If you see anything that concerns you, be sure to tell your doctor. You should also schedule an exam with dermatologist once a year, or more often if you are at a higher risk for skin cancer.

Food

Being overweight or obese is associated with at least 13 different types of cancer. One step you can take to maintain or lower your weight is eat healthier foods as well as exercise. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020, a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars
  • Stay within your daily calorie needs

The good news is you don’t have to give up your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while. Some general tips for your favorite comfort foods:

  • Eat them less often. Limit them to once a week or once a month.
  • Eat smaller amounts. If your favorite higher-calorie food is a chocolate bar, have a smaller size or only half a bar.
  • Try a lower-calorie version.

Exercise

We’ve noted that being overweight or obese is associated with cancer. One way to reduce or maintain your weight is through exercise. When it comes to weight management, people vary greatly in how much physical activity they need. OHC recommends 30 minutes of exercise per day for 5 days each week.

Protect your skin

The most common kind of cancer in the United States is skin cancer, caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. To protect yourself while still having fun outdoors:

  • Avoid indoor tanning (using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get tan) because it also exposes users to ultraviolet radiation.
  • Seek shade, applying sunscreen, and wearing sun-protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses
  • Protect yourself year-round, not just during the summer or at the beach. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, not just on bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand and snow
  • Limit exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when it is the most dangerous for UV exposure outdoors in the continental United States

Consider genetic testing.

Some people are at higher risk of developing certain types of cancer because they have an inherited gene condition. If you have been diagnosed with cancer before the age of 50, have multiple family members with cancer, or have experienced multiple cancers, you may want to consider genetic testing. Genetic testing can determine if you have a disease-related gene condition that may put you at higher risk of getting cancer before symptoms appear. OHC Cancer Genetic Specialists analyze your personal and family history to determine if there is a risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome.

At OHC, we do more than just treat cancer. Our experts also help you take steps to reduce your risk of developing cancer. If you or someone you know has cancer, or for a second opinion, contact OHC at 1-800-710-4674 or request an appointment.

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