I’m A Cancer Survivor – Why Should I Care About Cancer Prevention?

7 Things You Can Do To Decrease Cancer Risk

Everyone, Including Cancer Survivors, Can Benefit!

FEBRUARY is Cancer Prevention Month. Thank you for joining me for another conversational blog! 

Cancer prevention is not a “sexy” topic. Cancer prevention steps are commonly advertised, but not many take heed of the recommendations. Why is that? The questions received on this topic may shed some light on the reasons. Thank you for your questions regarding Cancer Prevention submitted via our HOME page.  Be sure to visit our upcoming Events for information on future blogs HERE and submit your questions in advance for upcoming blogs.

Your 7 Commonly Asked Questions About Cancer Prevention

Keeping the main question in focus, and in an attempt to limit the length of this blog, here are a few of the top questions we received from you at Q4CD.com

  1.  I have been smoking for over 30 years. Why should I quit now?
  2. Does the Cancer Risk apply to me, if I don’t smoke cigarettes, but my partner smokes?
  3. I like getting a natural tan, but I do use tanning beds in the winter. Am I still at risk for skin cancer?
  4. I have a stressful job. What’s the harm in drinking a few drinks in the evening?
  5. Everyone in my family is “thick” What is a healthy weight for cancer prevention?
  6. Does screening really prevent cancer, or do you just find it earlier?
  7. I am a cancer survivor. Why should I worry myself about cancer screening?

By answering these questions, the basic information about cancer prevention and benefits of lifestyle adjustment will be explained. But first, Bottom Line Up Front (cannot get away from my days of living military acronyms;) 

BLUF:

It is true. Somethings in life can be prevented… while others cannot. Let’s be practical. Why were traffic lights and cross walks invented? The incidents from motor vehicle accidents were sky rocketing and something had to be done to “prevent” all the deaths and injuries. Traffic lights and pedestrian crosswalks do NOT eliminate ALL traffic related deaths and injuries, but it sure does keep the numbers lower than they use to be.

So, what if there was something you could do to prevent hearing the words, “you have cancer” and avoid chemotherapy, radiation and surgery? Now what you do may NOT eliminate ALL your risk of getting cancer, but it sure would make a difference for you. Sometimes, it is easier to grasp a concept when simplified in everyday terms. This is my way of saying, “please look, before you cross the road on the busy highway of life.” Now, let’s dig into answering these 7 common questions. Remember, knowledge is power…

1. I have been smoking for over 30 years. Why should I quit now?

Real Talk: When I was in the military (waaay back when), we had cigarettes break, but I never like smoking, or the smell of it. It never made sense to me, since I was assigned to the Field Artillery and then the Engineers, we are always “training” = lots of forced road marches and early morning runs. I did have a stint with a different bad habit though (see below). No guilt trip here.

chances of surviving lung cancer

No one can make you do anything you do not want to do. However, here are some information to consider, not only for you, but for your love ones who must take care of you and may choose to remain by your side – no matter what! Smoking damages your lungs.  This damage can lead to cancer in over 90% of the cases, not to mention other limiting, bad diseases.  Diagnosis of cancers caused by smoking can be very inconveniencing for you AND those who must care for you. If your lungs are healthy enough for surgery, then you will miss days from work, be unable to take care of yourself for a while (time dependent on post surgery recovery) and you will not be able to smoke during that time either. 

What If I’m Unable to Have Surgery? 

If you are not a surgical candidate, then you may be referred to a physician such as myself, to discuss your radiation therapy treatment options. If the cancer is advance, then radiation will be combined with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy treatment is every day Monday through Friday for approximately 6 weeks. Think of the logistics to accomplish these daily treatments. However, if the cancer is caught early enough, then you may be eligible for SBRT, which is high dose of radiation therapy for 1 to 5 treatments. The psychological impact for you and family will be great too.

Cigarettes are packed with cancer causing substances/toxins (carcinogens) that can lead to many different types of cancers:

  • Lung Cancer
  • Stomach Cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Rectum Cancer
  • Mouth Cancer
  • Throat Cancer
  • Pancreas Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Bladder Cancer … and other types of cancers

quit smokingCigarette smoking causes over 90% of Lung Cancer AND Lung Cancer is the LEADING cause of cancer death. That is, when you look at all the different types of cancers and those who are dying from them … Lung Cancer is #1. Quitting is not easy. If you have been doing anything for greater than 6 months, it will take some effort to stop any habit. All changes begin with the first step though. If you are willing to try and quit, then consider;

  1. A conversation with your Primary Care Provider (PCP) – do not try to quit on your own; Your PCP will discuss available methods that is most suited to you
  2. Click this link to find tips for quitting for Military Veterans, Women, Teen, if you are over 60 years of age, tips for the Hispanic community and more. Click Here to start your NEW Journey  
  3. If you have been smoking for any length of time, ask your PCP if you qualify for the Lung Cancer Screening Program in your Country, State, or local hospital

Know this – It is never too late to make a change…

2. Does the Cancer Risk apply to me, if I don’t smoke cigarettes, but my partner smokes?

Yes. If you are exposed to cigarette smoke (second hand smoke) at home, work, or other social settings your risk for lung cancer increases by about 30%. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the cancer causing toxins (carcinogens) are higher in second hand smoke than in the smoke inhaled by smokers. Eliminating secondhand smoking may be difficult, as you will have to distance yourself from those who do smoke, but I encourage you to have that tough conversation.  This could be a joint venture in making a change that will benefit everyone involved. The Surgeon General Report on “The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress” may be of interest to help you and assist with your conversations as well. The link is HERE 

3. I like getting a natural tan, but I do use tanning beds in the winter. Am I still at risk for skin cancer?

skin cancer

Yes. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Every race and ethnicity is at risk. Skin cancers develops from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and tanning beds, which appears to be the most important environmental factors involved. Learn more about this very common cancer by watching this VIDEO Mini-Course HERE.

4. I have a stressful job. What’s the harm in drinking a few drinks in the evening?

What’s a few? Back in my enlisted military days, I used to drink with my platoon, mostly guys, so learned how to “hang” early. No one really quantified anything back then. We hung out most evening playing spades and had a “few” drinks; a “few” being different for everyone. Other times, after field training exercises we gathered at the watering hole for drinking, cooking, eating, playing, games, etc., We drank the cheap, toxic stuff too (take guess at mine – I like the “green” flavored drink … giggles). I cut back, and then stop drinking during the week simply because I couldn’t “hang” running five miles 3 times/week and 1st Sergeant random surprise 4th runs ever so often. Then it was drinking only on the weekend. But once I started evening and night school, I was down to drinking on “special occasions” only.

Quit alcohol

What is your “reason” for wanting to cut back? What healthier habit can you substitute? There are lots of studies that show that alcohol intake is a risk factor for liver cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and many more. This is very true. But then there are also studies that say a glass of red wine is good for your heart health. Medical News Today has nice, short review HERE. Strike a balance maybe? I hope you will opt to decrease your cancer risk.

5. Everyone in my family is “thick” What is a healthy weight for cancer prevention?

The weight conversation is always a tricky one. I recall while I was an athlete at Rutgers University competing at the highest level of track, we had a few girls who were not like us sprinters. We understood the thicker/muscular body type of girls competing in Shot Put and Discus throwing – they needed the raw strength, plus their talent. However, there was this one girl on the long distance team (competing in “mileage” races), who was about my height at 70 inches, thick, muscular AND a vegetarian. She was an awesome athlete who made the regionals and championships regularly. She always stood out. Quite the Clydesdale. If you have watched the Olympics, you need a magnifying glass to find the fat on long distance runners 

All that to say, a healthy weight is best measured not only by your Body Mass Index (BMI), but also by your respiratory and cardiovascular fitness. Simply put, you need your lungs and heart to live, yes?  So, will your lifestyle, weight and/or exercise habits support these vitals organs?  Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29, and obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher. What about bone density? There are studies that confirm differences in bone density, which made it a challenge to make weight for some military folks. Click the links below for some interesting reads on the above.

6. Does screening really prevent cancer, or do you just find it (cancer) earlier?

Yes and Yes. Read my previous blogs on Cervical Cancer HERE, Cancer Screening for Men HERE and Cancer Screening for Women HERE. While genetic pre-disposition will always be a factor, I have witnessed the PREVENTION of cancer in my own family

  • You can PREVENT Cervical Cancer in over 90% of the cases
  • You can PREVENT Colon Cancer in over 90% of the cases, excluding certain genetic risk factors. AND while I’m at it, COLONOSCOPY is the Gold Standard. I recommend starting with a colonoscopy, then you can decide with your PCP, the next appropriate screening. While the home kit is very popular, you are missing on the ability for a Gastroenterologist to “see” if there are any abnormalities
  • Yes, I am biased…

Breast Cancer, Lung Cancer, Prostate Cancer and many more, all have appropriate screening guidelines. Talk to your PCP about when you should be screened … the answer should not be NEVER. All males – get your PSA every year. See the PSA screening recommendations from my previous blog. But many whom I have treated for prostate cancer ask me to tell you – GET YOUR PSA even if you have to pay for it, it is less than $20. Message delivered. 

7. I am a cancer survivor. Why should I worry myself about cancer screening?

This should not be a “worry”, but I venture to say just a precautionary measure. If you had cancer once, then based on genetic risk factor alone, you are at an increased risk for other types of cancers too. In addition to continued screening for the cancer you were diagnosed with and treated for, the screening guidelines for other cancers do still apply. Have a chat with your Cancer Care Team, or Navigators about screening recommendations as well.  Join me for a FREE Webinar for Cancer Survivors by clicking this link and registering for the Webinar. I welcome the opportunity to answer your specific questions. If you are breast cancer survivor, be sure to see our post mastectomy or lumpectomy self breast/chest wall exam, mid-page HERE

Common Research on Cancer Links

The American Cancer Society is conducting research through their cancer prevention studies. An excerpt of the Key Findings from these studies include:

  • The link between smoking and lung cancer: Early American Cancer Society epidemiologic studies provided some of the strongest evidence linking smoking with lung cancer and higher overall death rates. This evidence led to the Surgeon General’s landmark 1964 conclusion that smoking causes lung cancer, helping drive a decline in adult smoking rates from over 40% in 1964 to less than 20% today. American Cancer Society epidemiologic studies continue to document the ongoing health impact of smoking. In 2014, the Surgeon General used our results to show that over 480,000 Americans die each year from smoking cigarettes.
  • The risks of obesity: CPS-I provided the first epidemiologic evidence that obesity increases risk of premature death, and subsequent studies from CPS-II helped to establish the link between obesity and death from breast, colorectal and other cancers.
  • The possible role of aspirin in cancer prevention: In the early 1990’s, CPS-II was the first prospective study to find a link between regular aspirin use and lower risk of colorectal cancer, a finding confirmed by many later studies. These results opened the door to ongoing studies in the U.S. and internationally to find out if aspirin might lower risk of other cancers and to better understand the overall risks and benefits of aspirin use.
  • The evidence basis for the Society’s Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention: Our studies showing that high red and processed meat and alcohol intake, low physical activity and longer sitting time increase risk of cancer or mortality have contributed to the scientific evidence based for the development of the Society’s Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention. Moreover, findings from CPS-II were used to demonstrate the lifesaving potential of a lifestyle consistent with our guidelines.
  • The connection between air pollution and mortality: Findings from CPS-II contributed substantially to the scientific evidence associating increasing levels of specific types of air pollution with higher deaths rates from cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. These studies are cited prominently by both the Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization in policies and recommendations for U.S. and world-wide air pollution limits.
  • The identification of important genetic mutations associated with certain cancers: CPS-II data and biospecimens have been included in the identification or validation of nearly every confirmed breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer genetic variant known to date. This work has led to a better understanding of family history of these cancers. The long-term aim of this research is to identify men and women at particularly high risk of the disease who may benefit most from enhanced screening, lifestyle modifications and/or chemoprevention. 

Read more about the American Cancer Society Research HERE

This only a quick synopsis. As always, the best way to find out about any health issue, is to engage/talk with your PCP/PCM. Continue to do your annual physical and visit sooner if there are any concerning changes, or abnormalities. 

Learn about the basics of cancer by registering for the breast or prostate cancer video course HERE and test your cancer knowledge HERE 

Until next time know that,

Life is beautiful and God is awesome. And know, you are pure awesomeness!

=======

Remember …

Ipsa Scientia Potestas est    ———  Knowledge itself is power!

Don’t forget to visit our website … HERE

Queen, Your Family Friendly Cancer Doc!

Follow us on:  Instagram          FaceBook              LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: