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Some Keys to Preventing Cancer – Know the Risk Factors, Get Regular Screenings

Published: 02/17/21

Did you know lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancer account for more than half of all cancer-related deaths in Georgia? Unfortunately, it's true.

That's why at Meadows Health, we are concerned not only with treating cancer but preventing cancer as well.

So what can you do to reduce your risks for these and other cancers?

Know Your Risk Factors.

A risk factor is anything that affects your chances of getting cancer. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be controlled or changed while others, such as age or your genetic makeup, cannot.

And since different cancers have different risk factors, it's important to be aware of your own family medical history and how your lifestyle may impact those.

What's more, just because you have a risk factor does not mean you will automatically get cancer. It may simply mean you have some things to work on or be aware of.

Below are just a few of the risk factors associated with the most prevalent cancers in our area:

  • Lung Cancer – Since many lung cancers are related to smoking or using tobacco products, most can be prevented. Exposure to certain environmental factors such as radon or asbestos can also increase the risk. In addition, a personal or family history of lung cancer can increase the risk. To learn more about the risk factors for lung cancer, visit here.
  • Colon Cancer – Those who are overweight or obese, or who are physically inactive, are at risk for colorectal cancer. Smoking and a diet high in red and processed meat can also increase the risk. And just as with lung cancer, a personal or family history can play a role. To learn more visit here.
  • Breast Cancer – Some risk factors for breast cancer cannot be changed such as being a woman, getting older or carrying the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, which is linked to breast cancer. Other risk factors can be controlled such as being overweight or obese, or not getting enough exercise. To learn more visit here.
  • Prostate Cancer – It is often said that prostate cancer is not a young man's disease. In fact, a man's chances for developing prostate cancer increases rapidly after age 50. Family history as well as race or ethnicity can also play a part. African-American men, for example, are more likely to develop prostate cancer. To learn more visit here.

Get Regular Checkups or Screenings.

So now that you know the risk factors, what can you do?

Just as it is important to talk to your doctor and get regular checkups, early diagnosis through screenings is key to catching cancer and increasing your chances of a favorable outcome.

A colorectal cancer screening, for example, is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing this particular type of cancer. In fact, starting at age 45, a colonoscopy is recommended for both men and women – even those without known risk factors. For those with risk factors, more frequent cancer screenings are recommended and may be recommended before age 45.

Lung cancer is another cancer that can be screened for. For those who are at high risk, such as longtime smokers, your doctor may recommend a CT scan of the lungs or another test.

For breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 40 to 44 have the choice to begin regular breast cancer screenings such as through mammography. Women age 45 to 54 are encouraged to get a mammogram every year. Older women may switch to mammograms every two years and can continue getting screened as long as they are in good health.

What Else Can You Do?

By now you've probably guessed that a healthy lifestyle and reducing your risk factors can go a long way – not only in preventing many cancers but improving your health overall.

If you smoke, try to quit or contact Meadows Health for information on a smoking cessation program. Quitting smoking not only decreases your chances for lung, breast and colorectal cancer but many other types of cancer as well.

If you are overweight, try to lose weight through a sensible program involving both diet and exercise, until you have reached an optimum weight. Then, find ways of maintaining it by incorporating more activity or exercise into your week.

For better nutrition, try working in more fruits, vegetables and whole grains that can protect you against cancer. In general, try to avoid foods high in calories and fat and low in nutrients.

Meadows is currently offering a virtual Healthy Lifestyles class for those wanting to lose weight or just  want to learn more about nutrition. If you are interested, contact Areli Alvares​ at 912.538.5325 or email aalvares@meadowsregional.org.

Be sure to limit your alcohol intake since alcohol has been shown to increase the risk of a number of cancers including liver, breast and colon cancer.

Finally, if you are concerned about your family medical history, consider getting genetic counseling. Genetic counseling can pinpoint your risk for certain cancers. A counselor or your doctor may then be able to make additional recommendations for how to prevent or minimize those cancers.

Here For You.

For more information on the health, nutrition and wellness programs offered through Meadows Health, call 912.535.5074 or visit www.meadowshealth.com/services/wellness.

If you have a concern about a specific cancer or would like to set up an appointment to see a specialist, call 866.565.6260 or visit www.meadowshealthcancercenter.com.