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Start Saving Yourself Now: February is National Cancer Prevention Month

By Dana Welsh, RN, BSN, OCN February 17, 2021 Posted in: Cancer Care

Cancer doesn’t take a year off. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2021, approximately 1.9 million people will be diagnosed with cancer. It is essential that you not neglect the basics of cancer prevention and detection, even while we may be focused on the pandemic.

In fact, nearly 42% of newly diagnosed cancers are potentially avoidable, excluding non-melanoma skin cancers in the United States. This year alone, a large portion of cancers could be prevented, including all cancers that are caused by tobacco use and other unhealthy behaviors.

There’s no better time to learn what you can do than during February, National Cancer Prevention Month.  Start by learning the four ways to reduce your risk--and potentially save your life.

Avoid Cancer-Causing Substances

It is hard to know why one person develops cancer and another does not. Some risk factors, like age or family history, cannot be controlled. But other risk factors that are known to increase a person’s chances of developing cancer can be controlled.

Tobacco use is one such risk factor. Scientists believe that approximately 30% of cancer deaths are caused by cigarette smoking. It’s the leading cause of bladder, cervical, esophageal, kidney, lung, oral cavity, pancreatic and stomach cancers.

Not smoking or quitting lowers your risk of getting cancer and dying from cancer. So if you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. If you do, many resources can help you quit.

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancer types and is also one of the most preventable. Start now by avoiding midday sun, covering exposed areas, finding some shade, using generous amounts of sunscreen and avoiding tanning beds.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Two more ways to reduce your risk of cancer go hand-in-hand: eat a healthy diet and be physically active. Doing both helps you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn may lower your risk of different types of cancer. Simple habits to adopt:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Get regular physical activity
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, choose moderation
  • Limit processed meats

Adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain health benefits, but those who get at least 150 minutes/week of moderate aerobic activity may experience substantial health benefits.

Get Vaccinated for HPV

Cancer prevention includes protecting yourself from certain viral infections. Talk to your health care provider about vaccinations against HPV (human papillomavirus) and Hepatitis B, which can lead to ovarian cancer and liver cancer respectively.

Have Recommended Cancer Screenings

Finally, make sure to see your health care provider regularly, do regular self-exams, be aware of your body and participate in appropriate screenings for skin, colon, cervix and breast.  If you are still a smoker or have quit in the last few years, you may also qualify for a lung screening.

All of these actions may increase your chances of preventing cancer or discovering cancer early when successful treatment is more likely.

If you have more questions reach out to a CHI Health provider today.

Dana Welsh, RN, BSN, OCN
Dana Welsh, RN, BSN, OCN

Dana Welsh RN, BSN, OCN is the Supervisor of the Cancer Center at CHI Health Good Samaritan.

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