January 9, 2024
– By Brianna Miluk with assistance from Priyanka Ginwal, Theophilus Aperkor, and Samaneh Shirani Lapari –
Prevention and Early Detection of Cancer
Did you know that cancer is the second leading cause of death in adults in the United States? The most common cancers are breast, lung, colon and rectum and prostate. Cancer treatment can be very expensive, take a lot of time, and make people feel sick. The best way to deal with cancer is to stop it from happening in the first place. If you are found to have cancer, it is important catch it early.
According to the World Health Organization, about 1/3 of cancer deaths are due to smoking, obesity, drinking alcohol, not eating enough fruit and vegetables and not being active.
But, there is good news! There are three major things you can do to try and stop cancer.
- Make healthy choices.
- Keep up with vaccines.
- See your doctor for regular screenings.
Healthy choices can help you avoid cancer. According to the WHO and the CDC, here are 5 things you can do:
- Don’t smoke. Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body. It also makes it harder for your body to fight against it if you get cancer. Smokeless tobacco and secondhand smoke can also cause cancers. Even if you smoke, stopping now lowers your risk for 12 types of cancers! It is never too late.
- Eat a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. There are no specific foods to completely avoid or consume to guarantee you won’t get cancer.
- Be more physically active. Try to get at least 2.5 or more hours of moderate physical movement per week. What is moderate physical movement? This includes activities such as walking, yoga, mowing the lawn, or gardening. More example activities can be found here.
- Sun Protection. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen, seek shade, and wear hats, sunglasses, and clothing that covers your arms and legs when in the sun. This helps protect against skin cancer. The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 9 am to 4 pm every day and can reach you even on cool, cloudy days.
- Reduce alcohol consumption. If you drink, limit your intake. Drinking alcohol can lead to a variety of cancers, even in small amounts (e.g. less than 1 drink per day). What is defined as one standard drink? It varies depending on the type and amount of alcohol. Check here to learn more.
There are two vaccines, or shots, that are used to avoid cancer. They make our immune system stronger so it is easier for our body to fight against cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Talk to your doctor to find out if these vaccines might be right for you or your loved ones.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is recommended for preteens aged 11 to 12 but can be started as early as 9 years old. The vaccine is also suggested for everyone through 26 years old if not vaccinated already. Adults older than 26 years old should talk to their doctor first.
- Hepatitis B vaccine can help prevent liver cancer. The vaccine is available for all age groups from infants through adulthood.
Screenings are another part of stopping cancer. The purpose of screening is to tell if someone has cancer even before they show signs. This is important for better treatment results.
- Breast cancer screening is done with a mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray machine that takes pictures of a person’s breast to check for problems. It should begin at the age of 50 years old. You can also do at home screenings by feeling for any lumps or changes in your breasts. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned.
- Cervical cancer screening is done with a PAP test, an HPV test or both. These tests are like a gentle swab inside the cervix that is then tested to make sure it is healthy. It is suggested to screen from 21 to 65 years old.
- Colorectal cancer screening involves checking for abnormal growths called polyps in the colon and rectum. Polyps are small bumps or growth inside the body that can sometimes cause problems. Screening for this should happen from 40 to 75 years old.
- Lung cancer screening is necessary especially for people who smoke and involves the use of CT scan equipment. A CT scan is a machine that takes pictures of inside your body like a camera. It is similar to an X-ray, but provides much more detailed 3D pictures. This does not replace quitting smoking.
- Prostate cancer screening is done via a blood test and when needed, a rectal examination. It affects men only.
To learn more, check out the links listed below
- To learn more about what cancer is and its signs, check out this blog.
- Learn more about cancer prevention and control for Alabama communities
- Sign up for cancer screening reminders
- Stay up to date with cancer news and research
This blog was written for the Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative in collaboration with a class at The University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. The class, called “Health and Social Networks,” looked at how people, groups, and organizations communicate, especially regarding health topics. ENI pinpointed health issues that were of major concern to our partner communities. The students in the class created informative materials to raise awareness about these specific health issues. While some students produced educational videos, others participated in a health fair hosted in one of ENI’s partner communities. This blog was created as part of the class project.