More than 700,000 men are diagnosed with cancer each year. Almost 300,000 die of it. Over the course of a lifetime, half of all men will get some form of cancer at least once. "The Big C" can strike anyone at any age, but the majority of cases occur in people 55 and over. The saddest part about all of this is that most of these cancers and deaths are preventable. At least one-third of cancer deaths are caused by smoking, and another one-third may be caused by poor diet and/or lack of exercise.
The two keys to beating cancer are 1) early detection and 2) reducing risk.
If any of the following are true, you are at risk of developing cancer. It doesn't mean you will, but you should be in close contact with your doctor on a regular basis. Regular checkups and screenings are vital to reducing your risk of developing cancer.
- You smoke (cigarettes, pipes, or cigars) or chew tobacco.
- You drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
- You have a family history of cancer.
- You have had cancer in the past.
- You are 55 or older.
- You get little or no exercise.
- You eat a high-fat, low-fiber diet.
You can't detect cancer if you don't know what to look for. Listed below are a number of symptoms that could be indicators. Many of them could be caused by other conditions, but you should notify your doctor if you notice anything unusual or abnormal.
- Lumps that you can feel through the skin
- Sores that don't heal
- Changes in the size, color, or texture of a wart or mole
- Blood in the urine, stool, or saliva
- A cough, sore throat, hoarseness, or trouble swallowing that won't go away
- Persistent back ache
- Unexpected weight loss
- Unexplained pain
- Pressure or tenderness in the chest
- Unusual bleeding
- Chronic nausea or gas
- Fever that lasts more than a few days
Even with early detection and knowledge of the risk factors, there's no way to guarantee that you'll never get cancer. However, there are a number of steps you can take that will go a long way toward minimizing the chances.
- Don't smoke. Smoking causes 90 percent of lung cancers and greatly increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, kidney, bladder, pancreas and esophagus.
- Limit alcohol to two drinks a day maximum.
- Limit your exposure to sunlight. A little bit of exposure will stimulate your body to produce vitamin D, which researchers think may reduce the risk of a number of cancers. But too much can cause skin cancer. Between 10 am and 3 pm—the hottest part of the day — try to stay indoors as much as possible. When you do go out, always wear sunscreen with SPF (sunscreen protection factor) 25 or greater. If you don't have sunscreen, wear a hat or stay in the shade as much as possible. Having fair skin or having had severe sunburn in childhood greatly increases the risk of developing skin cancer.
- Eat a low-fat, high fiber diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. High-fat, low-fiber diets are at least partly responsible for most colorectal cancers. They also increase the risk of pancreatic and bladder cancers. • Limit foods that are smoked, salted, pickled, or high in nitrates (such as hot dogs and luncheon meats). These foods are associated with increased risk of stomach cancer.
- Limit your exposure to PVCs, tar and creosote. These are linked with a number of cancers, including cancer of the liver and skin.
- Spend some time getting to know yourself and your body. See your physician if you notice any significant changes.
- Take aspirin. Some recent research indicates that people who took aspirin 16 times a month or more were 40 percent less likely to get cancer of the esophagus, stomach, rectum, or colon than those who didn't take aspirin at all.
MAN UP - GET SCREENED
Another set of invaluable resources men have in the battle against cancer are health screenings — medical tests designed to detect certain types of cancer (such as colon, bladder, kidney, skin, lung, testicles, prostate) in their earliest stages. Caught early, many of these cancers can be treated successfully. For example, lung cancer screenings have been shown to improve survival rates 1000% when the cancer is found early. Visit www.getitchecked.com for a comprehensive list of men's checkups and screenings, including the appropriate age to begin getting screened and the frequency of each screening. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss these tests and develop a timetable for getting them completed.
Summit Medical Group provides a wide range of key health screenings and checkups. For additional information or to schedule an appointment with one of our providers, call toll-free 800-289-9545 or visit www.summitmedical.com.