Most people know the effects of cancer, regardless of the type, on an individual and their family. Studies have found there is a 40 percent chance of developing cancer among men during their lifetime. This statistic likely does not surprise you. It probably means you know someone, a friend, or even a family member who has or is suffering from this potentially crippling disease.
However, that 40 percent figure does not mean you have a 40 percent chance of developing cancer; this statistic is the average amongst all American males throughout their entire lifetime.
Cancer is highly individualistic. The human body comprises trillions of cells that, over a lifetime, divide and replicate themselves. Sometimes the process fails, and unwanted, abnormal cells accumulate and grow out of control. These cancerous cells make it difficult for the body to function normally. Without treatment, they eventually cause one or more of the body’s critical organs to fail.
Before we can talk about prevention, we must look at what causes our cells to replicate inaccurately and become cancerous.
Three factors play a part in your susceptibility to cancer:
- Exposure to cancer-causing agents in your environment
- Lifestyle choices, which is by far the most significant of the factors
First, the genes we inherit are not cancerous, except in a minimal number of cases. But if our parents or grandparents had cancer, similar lifestyle choices will likely incur the same outcome for us. The likelihood of developing cancer also increases with age. The longer we live, the more times our body cells will divide and replicate themselves. So, it makes sense that as we age, there are more opportunities for these divisions to make imperfect copies and thus increase the chances of cancerous growth.
Second, there are environmental factors over which we have limited control. Mostly, legislation protects us from these potential harms, such as asbestos, UV light, radon, air/water pollution, food additives, secondhand tobacco smoke, soot, and wood dust.
Third, lifestyle choices are the most significant risk factor in causing cancer development. According to the American Association for Cancer Research (AARC), four out of ten cancer cases in the U.S. are associated with preventable risk factors.
The AARC has identified seven principal lifestyle risk factors that increase the risk of developing cancer:
- Tobacco usage
- Alcohol consumption
- Ultraviolet (UV) exposure, typically via sunlight
- Poor diet
- Lack of physical activity
Nearly 30 percent of all cancer cases can be attributed to tobacco usage or obesity. But you can reduce your risk of developing cancer by modifying how you approach any of the above risk factors. Changing behavior patterns such as quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, or reducing alcohol consumption can improve the outcomes for cancer patients and survivors.
Take full advantage of your health insurance screenings. All Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant plans must cover specified preventive services. If your medical provider is in-network, these services should be free with no copays under the ACA.
Cancer is very individualistic; there are hundreds of variations, each with its own combination of symptoms. It is not wise to diagnose yourself via Google, but it would help if you always were alert to the signs or symptoms that may indicate cancer.
- A sign such as fever, skin growth, or bleeding can be observed or measured by someone else
- Symptoms such as chronic pain or tiredness are felt by the person who has them
Cancer can cause a range of signs and symptoms, such as abnormal lumps in any part of the body, night sweats, unexplained weight gain or loss, unexplained bleeding.
You will want to know if your symptoms indicate cancer. Early intervention increases the chances of a favorable outcome. Your doctor is the best person to judge if your symptoms are caused by cancer or some other problem.
Some symptoms and signs are nonspecific. They indicate bodily changes that might be cancerous. Your description of the symptoms will help your doctor identify the appropriate physical examinations and laboratory tests.
- Unexpected weight loss (or gain)
- Loss of appetite
- New, persistent pain
- Recurrent nausea or vomiting
- Recurrent fever
- Night sweats
- Chronic coughing
- Recurrent bouts of constipation or diarrhea
- Blood in the urine or stool
- A mole that changes in size or color
- A sore that does not heal
- A growth or mark on the skin that gets larger or changes in appearance
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Take advantage of your insurance by having all the assessments and screenings you are allowed. Early detection and treatment are the surest way to a successful outcome. Better still to know for sure if your fears are unfounded