It’s a word that people throughout the world know, fear, and are, unfortunately, very well acquainted with -- cancer. But what is cancer, exactly, and more importantly, what are the steps you can take to prevent it from developing or spreading?
If you’ve ever wondered what exactly cancer is, how it affects you or your loved ones, and how you can attempt to prevent it, this article will point you in the right direction. It’s certainly not exhaustive, but it will give you a sense of what you need to know.
Prevention Matters Most
Before we dive into the basics of what cancer is and how it can be prevented, it’s important to establish that, according to the World Health Organization, between 30-50 percent of all cancer cases are preventable. Furthermore, they this organization states that prevention offers the most cost-effective, long-term strategy for the control of cancer.
However, this fact is not as widely known as it should be, and the development of national policies and programs could help both raise awareness and reduce the exposure to the risk factors that contribute to cancer.
Cancer doesn’t just develop overnight. While in some cases there’s little to be done about developing specific types of cancer, in other cases, there are ways that you can significantly reduce your risk for cancer by making conscious choices and decisions.
Living a healthy lifestyle is truly the best cure for cancer, in that it can prevent it altogether.
What Exactly Is Cancer?
Before examining the ways reduce cancer risk, it’s helpful to get a better understanding of what cancer actually. Cancer as you as you have either heard or experienced inspires fear and dread. Breaking it down to understand it can help eliminate some of that conditioned fear and push you toward cancer prevention practices.
Cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, is the term given to a broad collection of related diseases with a commonality. In all types of cancer, the cells divide rapidly, unable to stop or slow, into the surrounding tissues. What makes cancer a truly frightening illness is that it can start in almost location in the human body and quickly break down the body’s orderly cell process.
Typically, a human body’s cells can grow and divide to form new cells as needed. Then, when old cells die, new cells take their place. When cancer develops, this entire process is broken down, with extra cells forming and dividing without stopping. Cancer cells can even influence the normal cells and blood vessels that surround it, attacking the immune system.
What are Common Symptoms?
The early signs of cancer can vary greatly because there are so many different types and because the disease is influenced by a person’s unique genetic makeup. There are, however, a few tell-tale signs that can hint at the possibility of cancer. If you’re having severe digestion issues, trouble swallowing, or are developing lumps or hardening tissues, it’s ideal to get checked out by the doctor.
Some other common early signs of cancer that should be examined by a doctor include:
- unusual bleeding or discharge
- any obvious changes in a sore
- coughing up blood
- persistent headaches
- chronic pain
- persistent fatigue
What Can Cause Cancer?
Cancer is a term that collectively covers a wide variety of diseases with a like issue, but because there are so many different types, there can be different causes, too. While cancer can be a genetic disease that a person acquires because of their genetic makeup, outside factors can influence this as well.
Statistically, the top three main causes of cancer are inherited predisposition, environmental and toxic exposures, and random chance.
Some of those initial causes can be amplified by certain factors or risk-causing behaviors that can increase the chance of cancer. The following are just a few of the factors that can greatly increase your chances of acquiring cancer.
- certain infections
- tobacco use
- immunosuppressive medicines
- alcohol use
What Actions Can You Take to Prevent Cancer?
When it comes to your health, there are numerous ways you can reduce your chances of getting cancer, or help with preventing cancer altogether. As stated before, about 30-50 percent of all cancer cases are preventable.
So what can you do to prevent cancer and adopt the healthy lifestyle necessary to keep the disease away?
This is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality, but it still kills about 6 million people each year. Smoking, chewing, ingesting, or inhaling tobacco smoke puts you at risk for developing cancer, and the easiest way to avoid that is to avoid tobacco altogether.
Use Alcohol in Moderation
Alcohol use is a huge risk factor for developing many cancerous diseases, including, but not limited to, cancer of the liver, breasts, larynx, mouth, and throat. The more alcohol you drink, the more at risk you are to develop cancer, and typically, combining heavy drinking with tobacco can increase your chances even further.
Maintain an Active and Healthy Lifestyle
Physical inactivity, obesity, and poor diet are big factors in preventing certain types of cancers. There’s a proven link between being overweight or obese and developing cancers that affect your colorectum, esophagus, breasts, and kidneys.
To combat this and prevent cancer, adopt a diet high in fruits and vegetables that may have an independent protective effect against cancers. Limit consumption of processed meats, and eat leaner, lighter, plant-based foods.
Some other dietary suggestions for preventing cancer include:
- Cutting out sugary drinks
- Eating starchy foods like bananas and rolled oats
- Eating Brazil nuts
- Steaming Broccoli
- Consuming garlic
Adopting a lifestyle that’s full of physical activity is recommended as well. Not only does it keep you trim, fit, and healthy, it reduces the risks that come with obesity and inactivity, including cancer. Overall, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen is going to be key in reducing your risk.
Protect Your Skin
A huge cancer prevention tip is to protect your skin from the sun, as skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer. The good news, however, is that it is also one of the most preventable. Avoid the midday sun, stay in the shade, and never forget sunscreen.
Get Proper Immunizations and Screenings
It’s important to get immunized to protect yourself against viral infections that can lead to cancer, such as hepatitis B and Human papillomavirus (HPV). It should also be noted that to prevent cancer, you should avoid risky behaviors: practice safe sex, and don’t share needles.
More than anything, regular self-exams and screenings, along with regular visits to your primary care physician, can help you not only prevent cancer but catch any cancerous disease early if it does develop. Meet with your doctor to develop a cancer-screening schedule that makes sense for you, and discuss other ways you can focus on preventing cancer.
While cancer can take many forms, develop for many different reasons, and sometimes happen without rhyme or reason, there are many ways you can jumpstart your journey to preventing cancer.
Most cancers can be reduced or prevented by simply avoiding things -- tobacco, alcohol, the sun’s harmful rays, and foods that are bad for you. Other cancers can be avoided and prevented by maintaining a healthy weight and an exercise regimen that keeps you active. Still, other cancers can be prevented and avoided by scheduling regular appointments with your physician to screen for specific diseases.
Put simply, paying attention to the way you live is perhaps the greatest factor in preventing cancer.