From Benjamin T. Herms, MD, OHC medical oncologist and hematologist who specializes in lung and genitourinary cancer
February 24, 2021
One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. My OHC colleagues and I are committed to aggressively attacking the individual cancer of every patient. We also strive to provide you with information to help prevent cancer before it starts. Cancer Prevention Month makes us mindful of steps we can take to reduce our cancer risk.
Simply taking a healthier approach to your lifestyle can reduce or even eliminate many cancer risk factors. Consider the following:
Tobacco and Cancer
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco products cause almost nine out of every ten cases of lung cancer. What many people do not realize is that smoking can cause cancer anywhere in the body including the kidneys, colon, stomach, bladder and blood. Keep in mind that carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals) are found in all tobacco products including chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and other vaping devices.
Physical Activity and Diet
Obesity is associated with an increased risk for several cancers. Be sure to exercise and eat a healthy diet. OHC recommends 30 minutes of exercise per day for five days each week.
Build healthy eating habits by following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, which emphasize eating a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein foods, and fat-free or low-fat dairy and fortified soy alternatives. Your diet should include a variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean meats, poultry, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and eggs. Limit alcohol and processed and red meats.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Most skin cancers are a result of UV ray exposure, both from the sun and man-made sources like tanning beds. Remember to wear protective clothing and sunglasses and use sunscreen. Visually examine your skin monthly for any changes in spots that change, itch or bleed.
In addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we continue to emphasize the importance of cancer screenings as they can detect abnormal tissue or cancer early, when it may be easier to treat. We recognize the stress and anxiety surrounding COVID over the last year. It is important to resume your screenings. To help facilitate your discussion with your healthcare provider, following are the American Cancer Society’s screening guidelines for the early detection of cancer:
Breast Cancer Screening
- Between the ages of 40-44, women should have the choice to have this annual screening with mammograms for breast cancer.
- Those aged 45-54 should have an annual mammogram.
- Women who are 55 or older can switch to mammograms every two years. Screenings should continue as long as you are in good health and expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- Women should report any breast changes to their health care provider right away.
Cervical Cancer Screening
- Cervical cancer screening should begin at age 25.
- Between the ages of 25-65, women can have a primary HPV (human papillomavirus) test done every five years. If this test is not available, a co-test (an HPV test with a Pap test) can be done every five years, or a Pap test every three years.
- Women over the age of 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing in the past 10 years with normal results should not be screened.
An astounding 99% of cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus. OHC recommends that boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 12 get the HPV vaccine. Anyone ages 13-45 is eligible for the vaccine and should discuss any questions with their healthcare provider.
Endometrial Cancer Screening
At the time of menopause, all women should discuss the risk and symptoms of endometrial cancer with their doctor. Your doctor will determine if you need to consider a yearly endometrial biopsy because of your history.
Prostate Cancer Screening
- At age 50, men should discuss the pros and cons of getting a PSA blood test to screen for prostate cancer with their health care provider.
- If you are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before 65, you should have this discussion at age 45.
Colon & Rectal Cancer Screening
- Those at an average risk for colorectal cancer should have regular screenings beginning at age 45.
- If you are in good health, continue regular screenings through age 75.
- For those ages 76-85, seek the advice of your healthcare provider.
Lung Cancer Screening
Those who meet the following conditions should have a yearly low dose CT scan (LDCT) for lung cancer:
- Adults aged 50 to 80 years and in fairly good health
- Currently smoking or have quit smoking in the past 15 years
- Have smoked an average of one pack per day, or an average of 20 cigarettes per day, for at least 20 years or the equivalent (example, two packs a day for 10 years)
In addition to the aforementioned steps, some people should consider genetic testing because they are at a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer as a result of an inherited gene condition. As part of our comprehensive cancer care services, OHC offers the Genetic Risk Evaluation and Testing (GREAT) program, which provides an in-depth cancer risk assessment for people who have a personal and/or family history of cancer. You do not have to be an OHC patient to request this service. If a genetic link is revealed during the evaluation, OHC providers might recommend screening differently or taking advantage of a preventative surgery or medication.
The healthcare providers at OHC want you to know that by taking action now, you can help reduce your risk of developing cancer.Comments (0)