The BIG C refers to cancer, a diagnosis that in the past was virtually synonymous with death. It still sends shivers down the spine of many but a number of people are now taking a more proactive approach either to reduce their risk or to catch it early and deal with it. Of course combining both options is the smart way to go. You may be scared when you realize you have cancer but you should not feel hopeless. A positive state of mind is a priceless weapon.
We may never do away completely with cancer but by adopting the right life-style and screening procedures, we will go a long way in our battle against cancer.
Steps that can reduce your risk of cancer
The points below may not reduce your risk to zero but they definitely will do you a world of good.
We will tackle a handful of common cancers and discuss means of diagnosing them early to improve our chances of a “cure”. I use “cure” cautiously because as more sophisticated diagnostic equipment evolve we realize that what we once thought was cured was actually not but it may be good enough for us to live a happy fulfilled life.
The recommendations below apply to generally healthy people at average risk. People at high risk may need additional tests and sometimes at an earlier age. People with serious disease or advanced age that limit life expectancy may not benefit from screening. Screening prostate cancer for instance with the PSA has been very controversial but in my opinion you are better off checking especially if you are a black male over 40 years of age. I agree that it may not be necessary to bother a 90year old man with such screening methods.
This is quite a load to handle but early detection could be a life-saver.
This can be detected early with a simple, safe Pap test as well as a test for a virus called HPV that causes the cancer.
All women should start testing within 3 years of becoming sexually active or by age 21. Women who have had total hysterectomies that include removal of the cervix do not need Pap tests.
A vaccine against HPV is available. It has been found to protect against getting cervical cancer.
As already mentioned, testing for PSA is probably the most widely used test for prostate cancer. This test to add to its controversies can miss many prostate cancers (false-negatives) and may also raise unnecessary alarm by giving false-positive results.
In many cases prostate cancer is slow-growing and even “harmless” but in others it’s very aggressive and deadly. It is always heart-warming if it is detected before it spreads so that it may be “cured”. If you find yours has already spread, there is no need to raise your hands in desperation. Modern medicine has provided many effective options for its management.
This cancer normally begins as polyps and takes several years to grow into cancers. It is recommended that everyone starts regular screening at age 46 (used to be age 50 till recently). We may need to do this even a decade earlier if we have an increased risk that may be suggested by a family history.
Screening options for this cancer include, testing for chemical traces of blood in the stool yearly. You may also opt for a combination of testing for blood in the stool plus a sigmoidoscopy. One could also do a colonoscopy every 10years.
Other tests include a double contrast barium enema and newer ones such as CT colonography and periodic faecal DNA testing.
This happens to be one of the cancers often found by the patient himself. So self-screening may have an important role to play. Usually occurs in the age range of 15 years to 35years.
One may find an abnormal mass, unusual firmness and sometimes unexpected tenderness. An ultrasound may be able to resolve your concerns.
You must have a fairly good idea of what your skin looks like so that you will be able to pick changes up quickly and seek appropriate care.
Watch out for these on your skin:
The good news about cancer prevention is that small changes in our daily life make a BIG difference. If you already have cancer adopt a healthy life style and work together with your doctor to achieve success – IT IS WITHIN YOUR POWER!
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
*Dr. Kojo Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week – “A smear test lasts FIVE (5) minutes. The impact of Cervical Cancer lasts a lifetime.” Ask how you can reduce your risk!!”