World Cancer Day is Feb 4. People often talk about someone dying of cancer in hushed tones, as though saying the “C” word “cancer” out loud is to invite the disease into their own lives. The truth is that everyone is at risk for cancer and a wise man or woman will take cancer prevention seriously regardless of age.
Cancer starts when cells in your body begin to grow out of control. Every human body is made up of billions of cells. In almost any part of the body, cells can become cancer cells, and also spread to other areas of the body.
Forget about any myths or magic potions for preventing cancer. There are only two main approaches to cancer prevention that are scientifically researched and shown to work – having a healthy lifestyle and regular cancer screening for early detection.
Even if you have the genetic tendency or a family history for a particular form of cancer, adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk:
- Eat healthy foods, including reducing red meat and fatty foods, more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods.
- Regular exercise – at least 30 minutes a day
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol
- Common sense sexual practices such as limiting the number of sexual partners and consistent use of condoms
- HPV vaccination before start of sexual activity (recommended from 9yrs – 26yrs old)
Like many conditions, cancer is much easier to treat if caught early. Early diagnosis is the key to survival, particularly in areas with weak health systems and infrastructure.
To screen for cancer is to do medical tests to check for the POSSIBLE presence of cancer even though you have no signs or symptoms.
Here are recommended screening guidelines for some of the most common cancers among Africans:
Africans are very superstitious by nature but not saying the word or thinking about the possibility of cancer is to bury your head in the sand like an ostrich. It won’t make it go away. Taking active preventive measures is the only way to reduce your risk.