Cancer is one of the world’s most dreaded diseases. It can strike anyone. However, the risk of many cancers can be substantially reduced through a healthy lifestyle.
Improved treatment options for many cancers have resulted in successful treatment in many cases, particularly if the cancer is detected early.
Last Monday was World Cancer Day. Following on from the previous three-year theme for the day of We Can, I Can, this year began a new three-year theme of I Am and I Will, challenging us all to consider what we are doing and will do to reduce the risk of cancer, help fight it and support those who have it.
What am I doing to reduce the risk of falling victim to cancer myself? What am I doing to fight it and help others reduce the risk of ending up with cancer? What am I doing to support those who suffer from this disease?
The first thing to do to reduce the risk of cancer is to cut out unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol. The link between smoking and lung cancer is well known but there are other types of cancer that can also be caused by smoking. Avoiding over-exposing your skin to the sun reduces the risk of skin cancer.
The second thing to do is to make sure you are eating a healthy well-balanced and nutritious diet and having plenty of exercise. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise or physical activity, as well as maintaining a healthy weight, are the most crucial parts of a healthy lifestyle.
Because early detection improves the chances of successfully treating those cancers that are amenable to treatment, it is important for us all to learn what signs and symptoms might indicate possible cancer, so it can be detected early.
Where regular screening for certain types of cancer is available and recommended, it is wise to take advantage of such screening opportunities.
For example, tests for cervical cancer are available and recommended for sexually active women.
Regular self-examination for abnormalities, lumps or changes in their breasts which could indicate possible cancer is recommended for all women and even for men.
Those who have cancer can share stories about their own experience with cancer, join support groups and help lobby for policy changes that will improve the situation of people affected by cancer.
Where possible, those affected by cancer should continue with their work and daily activities during and after cancer treatment so that they can maintain their normal routine and social contact, as well as continue to receive their normal income.
If you know someone who has cancer, are you doing what you can to support him or her? Learning you have cancer can be traumatic, particularly if it is detected too late for effective treatment. Being there for that person and helping him or her deal with the physical and emotional impact that the cancer has when first diagnosed, during treatment and after treatment can be of immense help to that person.
If I am not living a healthy lifestyle, what am I going to do about it? How about making up your mind to stop smoking, if you are a smoker, stop drinking excessively, if you are a heavy drinker, and improve your diet and the amount of exercise you have?
This will not only reduce your risk of some cancers but may save the lives of your children. If you are a smoker and heavy drinker, there is a good chance your children will follow your example. If you are overweight, your children many not be concerned about their own weight. On the other hand if you adopt a healthy lifestyle and they know why, then they may well follow your good example.
If you know little about various cancers, how to avoid some of them and how to recognise their symptoms and signs, then why not find out more about them and how to detect them? If you are a woman and do not know how to examine your breasts for possible signs of breast cancer, then why not find out now and examine your breasts regularly each month? If you are a sexually active woman, why not find out where you can be tested for cervical cancer and how often you should have the test?
By making other people aware of how damaging to their health an unhealthy lifestyle can be and the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of some cancers, you will be doing them a favour and contribute to the likelihood of their avoiding certain types of cancer. In so doing you may well be contributing to a reduction in the number of new cases of cancer within the country.
Educating others about cancer and how to reduce the risks, includes dispelling myths that may exist in some communities that can lead to the isolation of and discrimination against victims of cancer.
You could encourage your child’s school, if it is a boarding school, to ensure school meals are nutritious, balanced and healthy, and that children have enough physical activity.
At work you could encourage policies banning smoking and ensuring canteen meals are nutritious and well-balanced.
You could also add your voice to those lobbying government to commit adequate resources to reduce cancer deaths and improve the quality of life of cancer patients.
If you have not yet come across a relative or friend who has cancer, it is likely that you will at some stage. When that happens, make up your mind to offer whoever it is whatever support you can.
I Am I Will
The new three-year theme is a call for all of us to do what we can to actively play our part in reducing the incidence of cancer and improving the lives of those who fall victim to it. Let us commit ourselves to playing our part in the fight against cancer.
The information in this article is provided as a public service by the Cimas iGo wellness programme, which is designed to promote good health. It is provided for general information only and should not be construed as medical advice. Readers should consult their doctor or clinic on any matter related to their health or the treatment of any health problem. To contact the iGo team, email firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp 0772 161 829 or phone 04-7730663.