Lifestyle choices make a big impact on whether or not a person receives a cancer diagnosis in his or her lifetime. Scott Schuldes, APNP, at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert, routinely counsels his patients on simple steps that can help prevent cancer. “I am a former cancer care nurse. Years ago, breast cancer and colon cancer were death sentences, and that isn’t necessarily true anymore. Anytime we can prevent cancer or catch it before it gets out of control, we have a very good chance of saving lives.”
Here are some simple steps one can take to stay in the clear:
1. Avoid tobacco use of any kind. “Smoking is the single strongest predictor of cancers in a lifetime,” Schuldes said. In addition to cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking causing lung, bladder, cervix and kidney cancers, the use of chewing tobacco is a big cause of head, neck and pancreatic cancers.
2. Get screened for cancer.
- Men should be tested for prostate cancer starting at age 50
- Women should get annual mammograms starting at age 40 and do monthly self-exams.
- Both men and women should get their first colonoscopy at age 50.
- Women are screened for cervical cancer at their regular gynecological appointments
- Learn to recognize abnormal moles or patches of skin and report them to your doctor to prevent the spread of skin cancer.
- Regular visits to a dentist often include screenings for oral cancer.
- If you have family history of cancer or you discover something abnormal, get screened at a younger age or more frequently.
3. Get immunized against viruses that can cause cancer
- The HPV immunization prevents against four certain types of human papillomavirus than can cause cervical and vulvar cancers in young women; genital warts in both young men and women; and some head and neck cancers. The vaccine is only administered to young people age 9 to 26.
- The Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines protect the liver from these diseases and the possibility that cancer could develop from the viral infections. There is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C, a contagious virus that can afflict people who engage in risky behaviors like IV drug use or multiple sexual partnerships. “The answer here is to prevent hepatitis C, a lifetime diagnosis, through good, healthy behaviors,” Schuldes said.
4. Protect yourself from the sun
“Evidence clearly shows that overexposure to the sun—even a couple of good sunburns over the course of a lifetime—can cause skin cancer,” Schuldes said. A person’s skin is the largest organ of the body, and Schuldes strongly recommends against ever using tanning beds or unprotected exposure to the sun’s rays. “Use sunscreen, wear wide-brimmed hats, cover your exposed skin, and tell your doctor if you discover any unusual patches of skin or asymmetrical moles that could be cancer,” said Schuldes.
5. Maintain a healthy weight
Excess weight increases your susceptibility to cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption taxes the liver, causing cirrhosis or cancer of the vital organ that filters toxins from the body. When joints must withstand extra weight, a cycle of inflammation in the body predisposes the body’s systems to cancer. “Avoid processed foods that are stripped of nutrients and packed full of sodium,” Schuldes said. “The solution to weight loss and soothing this chronic inflammation is found in a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.”
Need help to find a care provider who can help you prevent cancer? Scott Schuldes, APNP, certified family nurse practitioner, is accepting new patients at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert at (920) 853-3444. Or call ThedaCare On Call at (920) 830-6877 or go to www.thedacare.org and click on a “Find a Doctor.”