As there are differences between nations, so there is unity. On February 4th, an initiative by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), focus its efforts in uniting the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, promote equity and to integrate cancer control into the word health and development agenda.
Doctor Lee-Ann Jones, a clinical and radiation oncologist at Cancercare, says that World Cancer Day resonates with her, as it does with all oncologists, whose daily challenge it is to provide the best available advice and treatment for their patients.
Dr Jones suggests that information is key to the prevention and early detection of cancer. Regular screenings, self- examinations and the adoption of a healthy and positive lifestyle are the givens. Early identification of the disease will inevitably increase the potential for recovery.
She advises that there are screening guidelines available for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer and skin cancer. While these can generally be categorised according to a person’s age, someone in their 40’s and 50’s will be at higher risk of cancer than someone in their 20’s.
There are exceptions and genetic factors that need to be taken into consideration. If one has a family history of cancer, then it is advisable to discuss this with your general practitioner and have regular screenings from a younger age.
Women should examine their breasts regularly and have a pap smear every three years. By the same token, men should examine their testicles for any changes in shape or size.
Everyone should keep track of their moles and have a full body-skin examination with a dermatologist every two years. Always notify your doctor if you notice any changes in mole shape, size or colour. The early detection of melanoma is vital to a successful recovery.
To prevent colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy every five to ten years is recommended from the age of 50.
Smokers are at great risk and whether one currently smokes – or only stopped smoking in the past 15 years, an annual CT scan to screen for lung cancer could be considered.
As we age, the regularity and types of screening we undertake will change.
“It is never too late to adopt a healthy way of living and to change your risk profile,” says Dr Jones.
“There are eight reasonable steps to reduce your cancer risk. Don’t smoke; limit alcohol consumption; exercise regularly; eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables; maintain a healthy weight; protect your skin from the sun; protect against sexually transmitted infections and have regular screenings.”
Dr Jones concludes by advising that a “prevention is better than cure” approach is key to looking after one’s health in general.
“We know that refined sugar, a high salt intake and processed foods affect our health negatively. We know that obesity places significant pressure on our bodies and still, there are so many who are reluctant to make the lifestyle changes for better health.”