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?
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:
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.