Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Don't Forget to Make Your Cancer Resolutions

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year! For many of us, each January brings the opportunity for a fresh start by making a list of New Year's resolutions, which can be tough to keep, but well worth the effort.

Obviously, the most popular resolutions involve improving diet and increasing exercise. And for good reason, as there's no question that doing those two things can help improve your overall health. However, many people don't realize that as many as 30 percent of all cancers are obesity-related. So diet and exercise can not only help you lose weight, but it can also lower your risk of developing cancer.

There are some other "cancer resolutions" that I encourage you to follow this year, and they have to do with screenings for early detection.

  • Get a mammogram. Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and continue to do so as long as they are in good health. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam as part of a periodic, professional health exam at least every three years.
  • Get a colonoscopy. Both men and women, beginning at age 50, should have a colonoscopy once every 10 years, and perhaps more often if there is a history of colorectal cancer in their family.
  • Get a Pap smear. Specialists recommend that women have their first Pap smears at age 21 and every one to three years afterward, depending on the person's age and medical history. When abnormalities are found early and treated properly, very few progress to cervical cancer.
  • Determine if prostate screening is right for you. Beginning at age 50, men should have a discussion with their doctor or health care professional to see if they should be screened for prostate cancer and what type of test is right for them. For men at a higher risk of the disease, those conversations should begin at age 45.
  • Stop smoking and stay away from tobacco products! Smoking causes between 80 and 90 percent of all lung cancers, and tobacco is a major cause of many types of head and neck cancer.

These are just a few ways that you can improve your health and either decrease your chances of developing cancer or increasing the chances of it being caught early. I urge you to contact your doctor or health care professional, and keep these resolutions for 2012. Simply applying the knowledge that we already know can make a huge difference.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.