As a radiologist, I diagnose new cases of cancer nearly every day. I often think of what could have been done to catch it earlier, or prevent it altogether. So here’s my first blog post – the easiest and most effective scientifically proven cancer prevention and early detection tips, boiled down from my own recent research and reading:
About half of men and one third of women will eventually be diagnosed with cancer. While there are many types of cancer that cannot be prevented or even detected early (such as ovarian cancer), most cancers are, at least in part, caused by environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle choices. Here are the top 7 things you can do to avoid becoming a statistic:
- Don’t smoke. Tobacco in any form causes many types of cancer – lung, throat, bladder, cervix, and kidney cancer to name a few.
- Don’t get fat. Easier said than done. Maintaining a healthy weight can lower the risk of many types of cancer, particularly breast cancer.
- Exercise. Physical activity might lower the risk of breast and colon cancer.
- Keep your colon happy. Animal fat and protein in high amounts can be inflammatory and is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. Try to limit red meat to 4 oz a week, avoid processed meats, and maintain good colonic transit time with a high fiber diet obtained from natural sources such as fruits and vegetables.
- Immunize. Both the HPV and Hepatitis B vaccines effectively prevent cancer (cervical and liver cancer, respectively).
- Limit sun exposure. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. Although it is much more easily treated, it is also easy to minimize skin cancer risk by avoiding tanning beds, using sunscreen, avoiding mid-day sun, and keeping exposed areas covered with clothing.
- See your doctor. Regular screenings and self-exams are effective at detecting cancer earlier when it is more easily treated. Cancer screening, such as colonoscopy, mammograms, and blood tests, should be tailored to you, based on your individual risk factors and your family history.
Cancer is much more easily treated when diagnosed early. Here are five cancer warning signs you should never ignore:
- Change in bowel or bladder habits: Colon cancer can affect stooling patterns, stool caliber, and may cause bloody stool. Bladder cancer usually presents with blood-tinged urine.
- Skin changes: Any obvious change in the size, shape, or color of a mole should raise alarm. Any persistent mouth sore should be investigated promptly.
- Post-menopausal bleeding: This is highly concerning for endometrial cancer, which should be ruled out with a biopsy.
- Breast changes: Skin thickening, a new lump, focal tenderness, or one-sided nipple discharge are all signs that could be due to cancer. See your doctor for any concerning new change.
- Unexplained weight loss: Cancer robs the body of nutrition and often leads to weight loss as well as fatigue. Nausea, vomiting, low-grade fever, and headache are nonspecific symptoms that can also signal the presence of cancer.