Cancer is a devastating illness that can rob you of your life.

It seems so unfair that we must fight against cancer every day of our lives.

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Maybe it hasn’t affected you personally, but guaranteed it has affected someone you know and love.  It’s important to get mad and to fight this horrible disease and protect those around us.  We have all lost way too much to this disease; too much time, too much money, and too many people.

There is a way each and every one of us can fight against cancer.  We can start by trying to do what we can to prevent it in our lives and by catching it with early detection tests.  Some cancer death rates, such as breast cancer, have actually gone down the past few years due to early detection.

Follow some of these guidelines for early detection of cancer:

Get a cancer related checkup.  For people who have regular health examinations, a cancer-related checkup should be included.  It will depend on a person’s age but these examinations should include examinations for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, testes, and ovaries as well as for some non-malignant diseases.

Breast Cancer – October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

  • Make a personal commitment to learn more about breast cancer screening options and guidelines.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms for women beginning at 40 years of age.  These should continue for as long as the woman is in good health.
  • A thorough breast examination by a doctor or a nurse should be part of your health examination at least every three years until your reach the age of 30.  If you have a family history of breast cancer this should be done every year.
  • Make sure you report any breast changes immediately to your health care professional. 
  • Become educated on how to do your own Breast Self Examination (BSE) and begin practicing it at 20 years of age. 
  • After you make an appointment for a mammogram make a commitment to remind a friend or family member who might need a mammogram to get one scheduled as well.
  • If you are at increased risk due to family or personal history, talk to your doctor about having other tests, such as a MRI or ultra-sound.

Colon and Rectum Cancer – March is Colon Cancer Awareness month

  • At the age of 50, men and women should get tested for colon cancer.  Talk to your doctor about colon cancer screenings.
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) or Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) – these tests should be completed every year after the age of 50.
  • A Flexible Sigmoidoscopy should be completed once every five years.
  • A Double-Contrast Barium Enema every five years should be done.
  • Schedule a Colonoscopy once every ten years.
  • People who are at increased risk for colorectal cancer should begin colorectal cancer testing earlier and have them more often.
  • Encourage a friend or family member who is 50 or older to get tested for colon cancer. 
  • Make a personal commitment to decrease your risk.  Colon cancer risk factors are age, family history, and race, but realize that other factors such as smoking, obesity, and diet can impact your risk.

Cervical Cancer – No specific month has been designated for Cervical Cancer Awareness

  • All women should begin cervical cancer screening about three years after they begin having vaginal intercourse, but do not wait any longer than 21 years of age.
  • Testing should be done every year by having a regular Pap test or have the newer liquid-based Pap test done every two years.
  • Beginning at the age of 30, women who have had three normal Pap test results in a row may get tested every two or three years.  Women who have certain risk factors should continue to be tested every year.
  • Women over the age of 30 may also get tested every three years (but not more frequently) with either the regular or liquid-based Pap test along with the DNA test for HPV.
  • Women at 70 years or older who have had three or more normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap test results within the last ten years may choose to stop having Pap tests altogether.  Some women will a higher risk factor should continue with testing.
  • Women who have had a total hysterectomy may also choose to stop having Pap tests unless the surgery was done for cervical cancer.

Endometrium Cancer -  No specific month has been designated for Endometrium Cancer Awareness

  • All women should understand the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer.  If you experience any unexpected or unusual bleeding or spotting it is strongly encouraged that you report it to your doctor.
  • For women with or at high risk for hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), a yearly endometrial biopsy should be completed for endometrial cancer beginning at the age of 35.

Prostate Cancer -  No specific month has been designated for Prostate Cancer Awareness

  • Both Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) and Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) should be completed yearly, beginning at age 50 for men who do not have major health problem that might shorten their life.
  • Men at high risk, which includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer at a young age) should begin testing at the age of 45.

Prevent Cancer

There are many things you can do to fight back against cancer.

  • Smoke Free:  Do not smoke.  If you do smoke, quit!  Encourage your workplace to become a smoke-free environment.  Support others who are trying to quit smoking.  Talk to young people about the dangers of tobacco use. 
  • Get a Cancer Health Check Up:  Learn what tests are right for you and get tested.  Early testing may save your life by finding cancer at the earliest, most treatable stage. 
  • Good Health:  Get active by getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity or exercise a day, at least five or more days a week.  Eat healthy.  Eat more fruits and vegetables with each meal and for snacks.  Drink plenty of water. Make healthy life-style changes and encourage others to do it too!

Make a commitment to save just one life from cancer, your life!