Here is the truth: we could save countless lives affected by cancer, if we simply detected the disease in its early stages.
Take colon cancer, for example. Polyps take as long as 10 years to turn cancerous. Detecting them earlier can literary prevent the disease from developing.
I recently passed through a certain study and noted that colonoscopy [a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine] could prevent colon cancer in about 40 per cent of cases. Yet up to 70 per cent of people aged 50 and older have not done a colnoscopy.
The same is true for other forms of diseases. When it comes to cancer, early detection is the absolute best form of prevention.
What steps can you take?
1. Get (regular) screening done:
For example, I recommend colonoscopy for both men and women starting at age 50. In some cases, such as when you have genetic risk factors, you should start even earlier.
To prevent prostate cancer, I always recommend baseline PSA screening for men aged 35 to 70, every one to two years. Have a conversation about the pros and cons of prostate screening with your doctor. For those with a family history of prostate cancer, ask if screening should begin even earlier.
For women I recommend yearly mammograms after age 30 to help prevent breast cancer. In addition, schedule a ‘pap smear’ every three years from 20s to 60s; it’s highly effective way to screening for cervical cancer.
Start the process by having a yearly check-up with your doctor. Ask about what screenings matter most for you.
2. Know your family history and act accordingly:
Your doctor can help you gather your family health history. Family history is much more than a trip down memory lane. Your genes play a major role in many types of cancer. If cancer runs in the family, genetic counseling, and often early screening, can make a major difference in detection and prevention.
For example, the genetic condition, so called Lynch syndrome, raises the lifetime risk of colon cancer to more than 80 per cent for men and more than 40 per cent for women. If this condition runs in your family, you need to start colonoscopy at 20s.
Breast cancer offers another example. If you have mutations in genes such as BRCA1 or BRCA2, your doctor will want to monitor you more closely and discuss possible options such as preventive mastectomy.
3. Take control of what you can:
Lifestyle changes and choices make a proven difference in preventing cancer. For example;
· Lower your risk of lung, throat, and other cancers by quitting smoking.
· Avoid skin cancer by opting out of tanning beds or excessive sun-bathing.
· Minimise your risk of liver cancer by drinking only in moderation or quitting it all.
· Reduce the likelyhood of breast cancer, and other cancers, by engaging in regular exercise and a smarter diet to keep your weight in a healthy range.
Prevention and early detection depend largely on you, the patient. Control what you can and start a lifelong habit of regular checkups.