Many people think that cancer is inevitable, but developing healthy lifestyle habits including regular exercise, healthy diet, getting regular screening exams and chemo-prevention can greatly reduce your risk for some types of cancer.
VMOC’s Cancer Prevention Center offers a wide range of services to help you learn how to reduce your cancer risk. Through risk assessments, plus screening & prevention programs, we can create personalized risk-reduction strategies for cancer survivors, as well as individuals with a high risk for cancer.
Breast cancer is a preventable disease and, if detected early and diagnosed, a disease that can be successfully treated.
Breast Cancer Prevention:
- Limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
- Exercise daily for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
- Breast feeding
- Avoid hormone replacement therapy
Breast Cancer Early Detection:
American Cancer Society recommendations for early breast cancer detection in women without breast symptoms:
- Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.
- Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a regular health exam by a health professional preferably every 3 years. Starting at age 40, women should have a CBE by a health professional every year.
- Breast self-examination (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limitations of BSE. Women should report any breast changes to their health professional right away.
- Women at high risk (greater than 20% lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. Women at moderately increased risk (15% to 20% lifetime risk) should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram. Yearly MRI screening is not recommended for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 15%.
Colorectal Cancer Prevention
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes, at least five days a week.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
- If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman or two drinks a day if you’re a man.
- Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Eat less red meat and omit processed meat.
Colorectal Cancer Early Detection
If you’re at average risk for colorectal cancer, start getting screened at age 50. If you’re at higher risk, you may need to start regular screening at an earlier age and be screened more often. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you must be screened at least 10 years earlier than the person’s onset of cancer. For example, if your parent was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 52, then you must consider screening at age 42. The best time to get screened is before you have any symptoms.
Tests that find pre-cancer and cancer:
- Colonoscopy – Every 10 years if normal, repeat colonoscopy every 3-5 years depends on the finding of prior colonoscopy
- Virtual colonoscopy – Every 5 years
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy – Every 5 years
- Double-contrast barium enema – Every 5 years
Tests that mainly find cancer
- Stool occult blood test (FOBT) (guaiac) – Every year
- Stool immunochemical test (FIT) – Every year
- Stool DNA test (sDNA) – Ask your health care professional because technology is evolving.
An abnormal result of a virtual colonoscopy or a double-contrast barium enema, or a positive FOBT, FIT or sDNA test, should be followed up with a colonoscopy.
- Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit.
- Stay away from second-hand smoke.
- Make your home and community smoke-free.
- Check your home for radon. (Qualified contractors can be located through state radon offices, which are listed on the EPA Web site at http://www.epa.gov/radon/whereyoulive.html)
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Some research says being physically active may reduce your risk.
Lung Cancer Early Detection
Early results of a large study on a new way to screen for lung cancer in smokers and former smokers showed that low-dose helical CT scans (often called spiral CT scans) reduced the rate of death from lung cancer. If you’re a smoker or a former smoker, talk with your health care professional to see if screening is a good choice for you.
Prostate Cancer Prevention
You might lower your risk of prostate cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and never smoking or quitting, if you do smoke. More research is needed to determine whether certain foods or supplements lower the risk of prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer Early Detection
- At 50, start talking with your health care professional about the pros and cons of getting tested.
- There is no question that in some cases early detection of prostate cancer followed by prompt treatment saves lives.
- It is also clear that some men are treated for cancers that will never cause them harm and they must live with the side effects and complications of this treatment.
- Currently, available tests are useful, but are not 100 percent accurate. Sometimes a test indicates cancer where none exists and sometimes it does not indicate cancer where it does exist.
- A PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) blood test may be done every one or two years, depending on the results. Over time, if a PSA level increases, the chances of having prostate cancer also increases. Another test, the DRE (Digital Rectal Exam), is optional.
- Researchers are working to improve screening methods and to determine which cancers are likely to be life-threatening.
- If you are an African American man, or if you have a close relative (father or brother) who had prostate cancer before age 65, start talking with your doctor about prostate cancer at age 45. If more than one of your close male relatives had prostate cancer before 65, begin talking with your doctor at age 40.
- Avoid the sun, especially between 10am-4pm and don’t use sun lamps or tanning beds.
- Always use sunscreen and lip balm with UVB and UVA protection with SPF 30 or more, even on cloudy days.
- Apply an ounce of sunscreen—a palm full—20 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply every two hours if in continuous sun.
- Wear sunglasses that have been treated to absorb UV radiation, a wide brim hat and clothing made of tightly woven material with long sleeves.
- Protect children from the sun. Childhood sunburns may increase the risk of melanoma later in life.
Skin Cancer Early Detection
- Look at your skin once a month. Tell your health care professional about any changes.
- Have your health care professional examine your skin once a year after age 50.