Living Through Cancer

Cancer is one of the greatest killers of all time. In 1971, the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, declared war on cancer. At the time, cancer was behind heart disease as the number one killer in the nation. Today, it is an unquestioned leader on a broader spectrum, including impacting on both genders and killing earlier in life than ever before. What we’ve learned since that time about cancer has filled countless volumes, but the cure still eludes us. However, a cancer diagnosis today doesn’t mean the same death sentence it did in the early 70s. There are treatment options. There are precautions and pre-emptive tests. There are ways to live. With that in mind, this article will focus on the most common cancers, how to prevent them and how both genders, aged 30 and beyond, can be best informed about them.

EARLY CANCER: COPING WITH THE DISEASE IN YOUR 20S, 30S AND 40S

Why start so early? Simple: Because the disease is starting that early. Recent data indicates that cancer is on the rise sooner than ever for young adults and often in highly preventable forms.

RISKS FOR WOMEN: The greatest risk for young women comes from melanoma, breast, ovarian and cervical cancers.
Breast cancer is a growing concern because it seems to be more aggressive when contracted earlier in life. Breast cancer incidences do rise with age, but they are also becoming more common earlier in life. Sometimes up to 10% of the cases occur before the age of 45.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, younger women are being diagnosed with melanoma more than their older counterparts for the past two decades and counting.

PREVENTION FOR WOMEN: Cancer does follow some patterns. This is why knowing your family history is important. If there’s any cancer in your family tree, you need to alert your physician and schedule regular checkups to catch any incident early. According to the National Cancer Institute, this is especially true for breast cancer. If you’re in your 40s, you should have an annual mammogram; if you’re under 40, a mammogram must be performed at least once every three years.
One of the most preventable cases of cancer is melanoma, but staying out of the sun isn’t everything. You have to be proactive and screen yourself for any moles, spots or growths and immediately get them checked.

RISKS FOR MEN: The checklist for men isn’t any better than their female counterparts. The most common cases for men in this age group are bowel and testicular cancer, as well as melanoma. Prostate cancer also becomes a growing concern in this age range. Men who test positive for HPV earlier in life are more likely to get diagnosed with these cancers in this age group.

PREVENTION FOR MEN: As with women, one of the most powerful weapons you have for prevention is to track your family medical history. Beyond that, stay out of the sun and be diligent with your screening. Avoid tobacco, limit alcohol consumption, follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly. All of these combined will fortify your body, making it stronger as you age to battle any upcoming illness.

LATER CANCER: COPING WITH THE DISEASE IN YOUR 50S AND 60S

Men and women face cancer in vastly different ways in their later years. Women see a rise in their most common forms, while men begin to manifest a varied array of different types of cancers.

RISKS FOR WOMEN: Breast cancer becomes an even more likely threat in this age range. Beyond that, however, the list grows to include bowel, lung and uterus cancers. The most common form of uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, happens most in this age group as well.

PREVENTION FOR WOMEN: The good news is that there are many ways to screen for cancer. In this age range, women are expected to have an annual mammogram, a pap test every five years with an HPV exam and colonoscopy every decade.
Beyond the tests, the power to limit or prevent any cancer incidence is in the patient’s hands. Stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight, diet and exercise regime. It is especially important to include fiber in your diet to target colon cancer risk and to avoid drinking more than one alcoholic beverage every day to limit the risk of breast cancer.

RISKS FOR MEN: The common forms of cancer in this age range include prostate, lung and bowel. As men age, they become even more susceptible to cancer incidence. While women seem to stay within a common range of cancers in this are group, men are quickly becoming risks for all different kinds of cancers as they age.

PREVENTION FOR MEN: There are a plethora of tests that men will undergo within this age range. Colorectal cancer should be screened for annually. There are three different tests that your doctor can request: colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and fecal occult blood testing. Men should also ask their physicians about a PSA test to screen for prostate cancer. Beyond the tests, however, nothing can discount the importance of a proper diet and exercise for men in this age range to stay healthier longer.