Assess Your Risk For Cancer

Are your odds of developing cancer higher than they should be? Ask yourself these questions.

1. Do you smoke or live with someone who does?
2. Is commuting to work the most physical activity you get on a daily basis?
3. Given a choice between shredded wheat and fried eggs, do you always pick the eggs—preferably with bacon?
4. Has one of your parents, grandparents or siblings ever been diagnosed with cancer?
5. Do you put off going to the doctor until you’re feeling awful?

Every “yes” could quite possibly increase your risk for cancer. But relax. Knowing your risk factors is the first step toward improving your chances of stopping cancer in its most curable early stages—or avoiding it entirely.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than a third of all cancer deaths could be prevented with relatively simple lifestyle changes. Read on to learn where to start.

If You Answered Yes to Question 1.
Your Assignment: KICK THE STICKS
There’s a reason cigarettes are called “cancer sticks.” Smoking is directly linked to at least 15 different kinds of cancer, including most cases of lung cancer, which kills more people than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

Nevertheless, giving up tobacco might be one of the hardest things you ever do. After all, it’s addictive. But the payoff is huge: Quitting smoking is the single best way to cut your cancer risk, says Ted Gansler, M.D., the American Cancer Society’s director of medical content.

There’s another benefit, too—quitting helps protect the people around you. Studies show that secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year. And if you’re the nonsmoker in your household, persuading your loved ones to kick the habit is a great investment in your own health.

If You Answered Yes to Questions 2. and 3.
Your Assignment: EAT BETTER, MOVE MORE
You know that eating right and exercising helps keep your heart healthy and your waist slim. Did you know that it’s a strong defense against cancer, too? Colon, endometrial and postmenopausal breast cancer, as well as some kidney cancers, are strongly associated with obesity, says Moshe Shike, M.D., -professor of medicine at Cornell University Weill Medical College and co-author of the book Cancer Free: The Comprehensive Cancer Prevention Program. What’s more, he adds, there’s plenty of evidence that people who exercise are less likely to develop cancer, especially of the breast and colon.
While it can be fun to learn about the latest research into the health benefits of food and fitness, you don’t have to obsess about whether to choose apples instead of oranges or spend hundreds of dollars on a gym membership, Gansler says.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Go easy on the fat, sugar and alcohol. Walk 30 minutes on most days of the week, climb stairs instead of taking the elevator, go dancing. These basic, sensible steps can help keep your weight within the healthy range for your height. What’s healthy? Check your body mass index, or BMI, at bmi to learn if you’re in the healthy zone.

If You Answered Yes to Question 4.
Your Assignment: KNOW YOUR HISTORY
Knowing your family health history can be a crucial tool for prevention and early detection. L
earning as much as you can about immediate family members who’ve been diagnosed with cancer doesn’t require a diagnostic procedure—just a willingness to have some potentially awkward conversations. Genetic tests are available for only a handful of specific cancers, and experts disagree on whether and when to do genetic screening. GMC offers a High Risk Clinic that offers caner risk assessments and genetic testing to help you determine your risk of developing cancer. Click here to learn more.  

Shike recommends that your family health history research span not only your parents and siblings, but also your grandparents, aunts, uncles and first cousins. Write down what kind of cancer they had, when they were diagnosed and at what age, what treatment they received and how successful it was. This information will help your doctor spot any patterns worth noting. For example, if someone in your family developed colon cancer at age 45, your doctor may recommend that you begin regular screenings in your 30s or 40s instead of waiting until age 50, as most people do.

If You Answered Yes to Question 5.
Your Assignment: WATCH YOURSELF
Finally, there’s one thing you can do for your health that requires almost no effort at all: noticing changes in your body that might -suggest something’s wrong.
No one knows your body as well as you do. It only takes a few minutes to check for lumps where lumps shouldn’t be, glance at moles and freckles to make sure they haven’t changed, and ask yourself how long an ache or twitch has been bothering you. Those few minutes might save your life.

Gwinnett Medical Center's cancer program is accredited by the Commission on CancerAs a cancer patient, receiving treatment at a CoC-accredited cancer center will ensure that you are receiving quality cancer care that includes state-of-the-art technology, a multidisciplinary team approach to ensure you receive the best available treatment options, information about clinical trials and more. 


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