Cancer: Prevention Better than Cure

The earlier cancer is detected, the better are the chances of it being treated successfully. The best way to do this is by safeguarding your own health and knowing the warning signs and symptoms of cancer and having regular check-up at your physician's office

No smokingIt is essential that you visit your doctor on a regular basis. It would be disastrous if you wait for cancer symptoms to crop up.

The following have been summarised as signs of cancer, under the acronym, "CAUTION," which you may refer to - from time to time - for your health and wellbeing, and also speak to your doctor in the event you notice something amiss:

  • Change in bowel or bladder habit
  • A sore that does not heal
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Thickening or lump in the breast
  • Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
  • Obvious change in a wart or mole
  • Nagging cough or hoarseness.

Other notable signs or symptoms may include thickening or lump in any part of the body and unexplained weight loss.

These symptoms, singly or collectively, are not always symptoms of cancer. They may also be caused by several other conditions - which include minor illnesses. While it is important for you to see a doctor in the presence of certain symptoms, because it is only a doctor that can make a diagnosis, it would be wrong for one to wait to feel pain and, thereafter, seek medical advice.

Growing older and being subject to symptoms also isn't as simple an equation as it would appear on the surface. Because of this myth, many illnesses, including cancer, go undiagnosed and untreated. Never disregard your symptoms because you think they are not important or because they may be normal for your age. Speak to your doctor at the earliest.

Tests

As you'd already know, most cancers in their early stages - which are also the most treatable - do not cause any symptoms or pain. All the more reason for you to undergo regular tests to check for cancer before it quietly sneaks in and explodes.

Your doctor will consider your age, medical history, general health, family history, and lifestyle, before conducting a screening test. This is the best time for you to ask questions, and seek clarifications.

For those who are 45+, or older and/or on doctor's advice, the following tests are usually recommended:

  • Mammogram. A mammogram is a special X-ray of the breast. It can detect cancers that are too small for a woman or the doctor to feel..
  • Pap Test. The risk of cancer of the cervix - the lower, narrow part of the uterus or womb - increases with age. In the procedure, the doctor uses a wooden scraper, or small brush, to collect a sample of cells from the cervix and upper vagina. The cells are sent to a laboratory to test for abnormalities.
  • Faecal Occult Blood Test. In this test, stool samples are applied to special cards, which are examined in a laboratory for occult [hidden] blood. Colorectal cancer is common in both men and women, and is a leading cause of death after age 50. Besides this, your doctor may also use a thin, flexible tube with a light [sigmoidoscope] to look inside the colon and rectum for growths or abnormal areas. Another key test that is often ordered is the Prostate Specific Antigen [PSA].
  • Skin Exam. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. A routine examination of the skin helps the prospect of detecting skin cancer early.
  • Biopsy. You should bear in mind that a positive result on any of these tests does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. You need to undergo other tests - in the absence or presence of any possibility or questions. One accurate examination is biopsy. Biopsy is the only sure way to know whether the culprit is cancer. For a biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed from the abnormal area and examined under a microscope to detect cancer cells.

Prevention

Prevention is better than cure, as you quite well know. Though the chances of getting cancer increases with age [after 50], there are a handful of things that you can do to prevent it - to the maximum extent possible.

  • Avoid the use of tobacco and tobacco products. Tobacco causes cancer. Even the use of smokeless, or "attenuated," tobacco, and being exposed regularly to involuntary tobacco/cigarette smoke are risks no less
  • Avoid over-exposure to direct sunlight. UV radiation from the sun and other sources can damage your skin and cause skin cancer
  • Obesity is another major cause of cancer - if you are overweight, the best thing to do is reduce weight, and bring it to acceptable levels
  • Eat food rich in fibre. Fibre is a good choice - it reduces your chances of developing cancer
  • It is ideal that you eat a varied, well-balanced diet that includes generous amounts of foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Take at least 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day and cut down on fatty foods
  • Drink alcohol in moderation - best to avoid, if you can
  • Lead a healthy, active life — and, exercise and meditate on a regular basis. Reduce stress to the best extent possible.

Cancer Fighting Foods

Many of the common foods we eat possess cancer-fighting properties. Make them a part of your daily diet.

Foods Component Cancer-fighting properties
Cabbage, cauliflower Indole-3-carbinol Combats breast cancer by converting cancer-promoting oestrogen into a more protective variety
Broccoli Sulphoraphane Induces the production of certain enzymes that can deactivate free radicals and carcinogens
Carrots Beta-carotene Acts as an anti-oxidant that helps prevent and fight cancers of the lung, mouth, throat, stomach, intestine, bladder, prostate and breast
Capsicum Capsaicin Neutralises cancer-causing substances [nitrosamines]
Garlic Diallyl sulfides Increases the activity of immune cells that fight cancer and indirectly helps breakdown of cancer-causing substances
Grapes Bioflavonoid and Resveratol Powerful anti-oxidants that can inhibit the enzymes that stimulate cancer-cell growth
Red wine Polyphenols Potent anti-oxidants neutralise cancer-causing free radicals
Soybean Phytoestrogen Prevents breast and prostate cancer by blocking and suppressing cancerous changes
Tomatoes Lycopene Acts as an anti-oxidant
Papaya Vitamin A, Vitamin C and folacin Act as anti-oxidant

- PAYAL Chhabria

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