Take preventative measures against cancer
In the next few issues of Checkout I will look at various health and wellness concerns and what you can do to live a healthy lifestyle.
Last April volunteers were seen selling bright yellow daffodils all across Ontario. Initiatives such as these raise money for cancer research and increase awareness of the many ways cancer touches the lives of all Canadians. Using the symbol of a daffodil actually began in Toronto in the 1950s. Volunteers used the flowers to decorate a small fundraiser and were surprised that the cheery blossoms created an atmosphere of hope and faith.
I share this with you because the word cancer is one of the scariest words a person can hear. It often conjures up fear of a long and difficult illness. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Cancer touches us all, whether it is a personal battle, a friend needing support or a family history of a particular type. But much is known about this disease and many types of cancers can be preventable or easily treated. Today 62% of people diagnosed with the disease will survive and in the 1960s this number was only 1 in 3.
The Local’s Wellness webpage has information about specific cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, which are the two leading types of cancers in Ontario. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends many steps to reduce your overall risk of cancer. These include lifestyle changes, screenings and education. If you learn more about what cancer really is, you will be empowered to improve your own health – and the health of those around you.
Here are some tips for cancer prevention:
• Smoking – Everyone knows that smoking is harmful. Tobacco use is responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths and 85% of lung cancer deaths. Yet if you step outside of your workplace you will almost certainly see someone with a cigarette. Why is this? Quitting smoking is hard, as nicotine is an addictive substance. But everyone is capable and a few difficult days of cravings are well worth the lifetime of health benefits. About 13,000 people in our province will die from tobacco use this year. That is 13,000 completely preventable deaths. Don’t be one of them.
• Healthy living – Like smoking, everyone knows that eating well and exercising is beneficial for your overall health. Up to 35% of all cancers can be prevented by being active, eating well and maintaining a healthy body weight. It doesn’t have to be intimidating. If you begin walking a little bit every day and slowly changing your diet, you can gradually make a big change.
• Screenings – This is an almost effortless step you can take. Early detection is key in many types of cancers. For example, if prostate cancer is detected early, in over 90% of cases it is curable. Finding cancer early reduces the risk that it has spread. You may not show symptoms of cancer, but health professional can conduct a variety of tests that could end up saving your life.
• Family – Genetics play a role in your risk for cancers, especially if a close relative like a parent or sibling previously suffered from a disease. Tell your family doctor so they can assess your risk.
• Alcohol – It surprises many people to know that drinking increases the risk for several types of cancers including breast, colon, rectum, liver and mouth. If you choose to drink, have no more than 1 drink per day if you are a woman and less than 2 if you are a man. As a general rule, the less you drink, the more you reduce your risk.
• Sun exposure – Vitamin D is important, but sun exposure without proper protection is unhealthy. Skin cancer is an increasing problem in Canada and the disease is largely preventable. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, protect yourself with clothing and limit your time in the sun. Indoor tanning beds, which release ultraviolet (UV) rays, are harmful and should be avoided.
• Chemicals – If you work with chemicals, always follow the health and safety rules and ask your designated health and safety committee members if you have any questions or concerns.
• Stay informed – There’s a lot of information available on cancer and cancer prevention. It is important to identify the correct information from perpetuated myths. Use accredited information sources and keep up-todate on the latest hazards and advice.
Cancer is a complex and difficult health issue. But this April consider the daffodil – a symbol of hope and bravery, uniting those who are affected by cancer. Get involved and get informed!
Source: Canadian Diabetes Association, Government of Canada