A Preemptive Strike on Cancer!

There has been a lot of talk recently about the need for early detection of cancer. The idea is to catch it quickly before it gets a foothold, while your body is still strong and the cancer is still weak. This increases your odds tremendously. But, how do you catch it quickly? There are over 100 different types of cancers! It is just not practical to test for all these on a regular basis. So what is a person to do?

First, let me state that I am not a medical doctor. I am not able to give advice on such subjects, but I can tell you what I do.

I found a good MD. I get annual physicals. And, most of all I researched my medical history. Both my MD and I are vigilant to test for those things that I may have a genetic predisposition toward. By that I mean, since my grandma had lung cancer and my dad and uncle had colon cancer, we are sure to test for these regularly.

There are also a few cancers that are associated with gender (male or female), age, occupation, and other factors that can make us have a higher risk for a particular type of cancer. Your physician will usually give you a several page form to fill out that will assess your risk for particular types of cancer – and other diseases.

Your physician’s main concern is detection. And, your major concern is prevention. If you can take steps to lessen your risk for these diseases, you will increase your odds of survival to a ripe old age – but that is a topic for another article.

One of the most exasperating and heart wrenching statistics that I read this week was that colon cancer is the second highest cause of death in Nassau county in Florida and it is the third largest cause of cancer death in the USA. What makes this so amazing is that it is one of the most preventable of all the cancers by active means. What I mean is that high risk people that get regular colonoscopies (every 3 to 5 years depending on your doctor’s assessment of risk) need never develop the cancer! It takes the colon polyps 5 to ten years to develop into cancerous tumors. So, a regular harvesting of polyps, so to speak, prevents the disease.

The article on the Jacksonville.com news page lists several reasons why people aren’t capitalizing on this advantage in colon cancer prevention. Cost, lack of insurance, modesty, and embarrassment about the part of body that is being inspected are listed as reasons that people say they put off the procedure. The article didn’t mention fear of medical procedures in general and procrastination.

I fall into the last two categories. But, seeing my father suffer with colon cancer and a radical surgery broke me of the fear of colonoscopies and of procrastination.

The colonoscopy procedure itself is not uncomfortable. The patient is sedated while the doctor does his work. It takes a while for the sedative to wear off after the procedure so you will have to make arrangements for transportation home. Personally I have never experienced any discomfort during or after the procedure. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that I am “tumor free” is wonderful.

I have focused on colon cancer, but the prevention and treatment of other cancers is equally important. Find out your family medical history and discuss it with your doctor. Get regular physical exams with blood work, if appropriate. Be a partner with your doctor in planning a long and healthy life.