There are many things you can do to protect yourself against cancer.
Know your risk. It’s important to know your family’s history, as some people are predisposed to certain forms of cancer based on genetic factors.
Partner with your physician. Make sure you keep up with doctors’ visits, and be honest about your genetic history as well as your health history. This information will help your physician look out for warning signs that something isn’t right. Early detection is critical in the fight against cancer, and working with your doctor is an important way to make sure you’re alert of anything dangerous going on in your body.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” While Hippocrates’s famous quote doesn’t refer solely to cancer, eating a nutritious diet is an important way to protect yourself against the disease. While it’s not clear how much diet impacts our risk of cancer, many doctors believe that making healthy food choices can go a long way in fighting off many forms of the disease. Eating a balanced diet also gives our bodies the fuel it needs to ward off disease; cancer treatment often involves a diet limited in trans fats and processed foods, and rich with wholesome foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.
Get moving. According to the National Cancer Institute, “There is substantial evidence that higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risks of several cancers.” Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily; this may not only decrease your risk of certain types of cancer, but can help give your body the strength it needs to recover from illness.
Quit your bad habits. The sooner you quit smoking cigarettes, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, bingeing on processed or high-fat foods, and/or living a sedentary lifestyle, the better. Reducing or altogether quitting all of these unhealthy habits can help reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Don’t be afraid of “overreacting.” There are many different forms of cancer, and therefore, many symptoms that indicate something is wrong. In addition to to scheduling regular check-ups with your doctor, you should also visit him or her if you’re feeling “off” for longer than usual. Prolonged symptoms that should never be ignored include, but are not limited, to:
- Chronic fatigue
- Unexplained pain
- Dizzy spells
- Persistent coughing
- Incessant nausea
- Blurred or impaired vision
- Skin tenderness
- Unexplained skin growths
- You should see a dermatologist as soon as possible if you notice any new growths on your body, especially if they are raised, dark or reddish in color, asymmetrical, and/or painful to the touch.
You can never be too safe. Even if you schedule an impromptu visit to the doctor’s office and you’re cleared of anything serious, you’ll rest easier knowing that you’re healthy.