Myths, misinformation and stigma
Some common myths and misconceptions about cancer cause fear. Just the very word 'cancer' can instill terror into many people because they think that cancer is incurable – but this just isn't true. This fear can prevent them from seeking help early on, meaning they delaying or even avoid treatment altogether. If we continue to bury our heads in the sand, a late diagnosis will more than likely result in a far worse outcome, which in turn perpetuates the myths and misconceptions of cancer being incurable or untreatable.
Filling the knowledge gap
Increased awareness, accurate information and greater knowledge can empower all of us to recognize the early warning signs, make informed choices about our health and counter our own fears and misconceptions about cancer.
Early detection saves lives
Although not all cancers show early signs and symptoms, many do. Cancers we can spot in advance include breast, cervical, colorectal, skin, oral, and some childhood cancers, but often the signs are missed because we don’t know what to watch out for.
It’s important to be aware of what the signs of cancer are. Finding cancer early almost always makes it is easier to treat or even cure.
Each of us can make sure we’re armed with the right information, so we know what's normal for our bodies and recognize unusual changes – and importantly, seek professional medical help promptly.
Screening for cancer
Even if you don’t have any signs or symptoms of cancer and may appear otherwise healthy, screening for some types of cancer can test for signs of it developing.
Cancers that can be effectively screened for include bowel, breast, cervical, colorectal (colon) and lung.
Prevention and risk reduction
According to the World Health Organization, at least one-third of common cancers are preventable through a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active. We can prevent many cancers through lifestyle choices alone:
Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of cancer and stopping smoking is one of the best things we can do to reduce our risk of cancer. Use of tobacco has been found to cause around 15 different types of cancer including oral cancers, lung, liver, stomach, bowel and ovarian cancers, as well as some types of leukemia (cancers of the blood). Quitting at any age can make a huge difference, increasing your life expectancy and improving quality of life.
Alcohol is strongly linked with an increased risk of several cancers. By reducing and limiting how much you drink, you can reduce your risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, bowel and breast, and may also reduce the risk of liver and bowel cancers.
- Physical activity
Maintaining a healthy weight and making physical activity part of your everyday life can help reduce your risk of ten cancers, which include bowel, breast, uterine, ovarian, pancreatic, esophagus, kidney, liver, advanced prostate and gallbladder cancers.
No matter where you live or your skin tone, moderate your exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and avoid tanning beds and solariums to help reduce your risk of skin cancer. Stay in the shade, cover up your skin and avoid prolonged periods of exposure to the sun.
- Workplace hazards
Some people risk being exposed to a cancer-causing substance because of the work that they do. For example, workers in the chemical dye industry have been found to have a higher incidence than normal of bladder cancer. Asbestos is a well-known workplace cause of cancer - particularly a cancer called mesothelioma, which most commonly affects the covering of the lungs. In this case, asbestos isn’t just present in workplaces but can also be found in older homes and buildings.
Chronic infections (commonly caused by viruses) are estimated to cause approximately 16% of all cancers globally. Some of the most common forms of cancers such as liver, cervical and stomach cancers are associated with infections with the hepatitis B virus (HBV), the human papillomavirus (HPV), and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori virus (H, pylori), respectively. Today, there are safe and effective vaccines against HBV and HPV, which can help to protect against the infection-related cancers of liver and cervical cancers.
World Cancer Day is encouraging us all to:
- reduce our own personal risk by improving our lifestyles
- become more knowledgeable about the early signs of cancer and check for them
- talk about cancer to help reduce fear, stigma and discrimination, shifting perceptions and strengthening support for people with cancer
Information courtesy of www.worldcancerday.org
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