Cancer: Prevention and Early Detection
The month of April is national cancer control month. The number of new cases of cancer is increasing every year, affecting people of all ages. According to Cancer Research UK, in 2015 there were 359,960 new cases of cancer in the UK of which 38% was preventable. The next most common type among men is prostate cancer; among women, it is breast cancer. Brain cancer and leukaemia are the most common cancers in children and young adults.
While cancer treatments have become significantly more effective with eliminating, minimizing and slowing the growth of cancer, thus increasing life expectancy and lowering the mortality rate of cancer patients – prevention and early detection remain imperative. National Cancer Control Month seeks to raise awareness for this particular reason. Ever heard of the saying ”prevention is better than cure”? IF we can prevent cancer from occurring or detect it at the early – it will give patients the best chance of survival.
Can cancer be prevented?
This is a common question that many people will ask themselves at some point in their lifetime. Although many people believe cancer to be caused by bad genes, we know that this is not entirely true. It’s not just a stroke of bad luck or bad fate, the chances of developing cancer is very closely linked to one’s lifestyle choices. Through scientific research we know that cancer is caused by a combination of genes and lifestyle measures. In the UK, 1 in 2 people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. Experts estimate that approximately 4 in 10 cancer cases could be prevented largely through lifestyle changes.
- Sun safety – we all love to enjoy the sun, but using sunscreen and avoiding prolonged exposure can reduce your chances of developing cancer
- Physical activity – exercise plays a huge role for many diseases, the recommended exercise guidelines for health adults is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
- Eating a balanced and healthy diet – food is the fuel to the human body, what you put into your body will determine how well your organs will work and for how long - be food wise.
- Keeping a healthy bodyweight – excess weight can significantly increase the chances of developing cancer. It is important to maintain a healthy weight, if you are unsure as to whether you are overweight or not, please visit your GP.
- Not smoking – several research papers have proven the dangers of smoking, one being the increase in the risk of developing cancer. To get support or advice on quitting, please call our pharmacy or visit your local GP.
- Drinking alcohol safely and within the recommended limits - to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
Is prevention guarantee?
Unfortunately, prevention is not guaranteed, however, you will be reducing your odds significantly alongside other diseases.
Family history and genes
The proportion of cancers caused by inherited genes is very small, it is estimated that 2 or 3 out of 100 cancer cases are linked to inherited genes.
Cancer that is diagnosed at an early stage, before it has had the chance to get too big or spread, is more likely to be treated successfully. If the cancer has spread, treatment becomes more difficult, and generally a person’s chances of survival are much lower.
It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer. This will allow you to see the doctor as early as possible preventing any delay in diagnosis.
If you feel like something is not right or you feel unwell, you must see the doctor as soon as possible. Do not feel like you are wasting anybody’s time.
If you know cancer runs in your family (e.g. breast cancer and the presence of the BRCA gene) then you must get screened regularly.
Some cancers can be physically detected e.g. breast cancer, skin cancer or testicular cancer. Always examine your body for any differences or alarming signs.
If you require more information, please visit http://www.cancerresearchuk.org.