Cancer….the word no one wants to hear

September is Cancer Awareness Month so there is no better time to talk about the importance of prevention and regular screenings.  Breast and colon cancers rank among the top five types of cancer but with healthy lifestyle behaviors, screening, and early detection these types of cancers are largely preventable and treatable.  And, guideline-based screenings are part of your Cigna health plan preventive care benefit which means they most likely won’t cost you a thing.

When it comes to prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases it’s all about lifestyle.  The Vermont Department Health’s 3-4-50 campaign highlights the importance of consuming a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco products to avoid chronic disease and premature death.   One of the best and easiest things we can do in terms of our diet is to eat more produce.  Brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients which have been shown to inhibit the development of cancer either by impeding DNA damage, or by reversing or blocking the tumor growth.  Exxperts recommend the daily consumption of two to six and a half cups of fruits and vegetables wiith special emphasis on dark green and orange vegetables.

When it comes to screening, the American Cancer Society recommends that women with an average risk of breast cancer should have regular screening mammograms starting at age 45.  Those who are at an increased risk should talk with their health care provider about the benefits and limitations of starting mammography screening earlier, having additional tests , or having more frequent exams.   Persons in the LGBTQ community have unique needs when it comes to breast cancer screening and can learn more about that here.  

The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. This can be done either with a test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (i.e. FIT test), or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (i.e. colonoscopy).  Click here to learn more about risk factors and the different types of available tests.  FIT tests are one of three, non-invasive tests that can be performed in the comfort of your own home.  You may even be able to purchase a FIT test at your local pharmacy.

Cancer is a word that no one ever wants to hear but with a healthy lifestyle and regular screenings it just might be a word that you don’t ever hear.