10/08/17 — Cancer edition 2017: From the Doctor ---- An ounce of prevention

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Cancer edition 2017: From the Doctor ---- An ounce of prevention

By Dr. James Atkins
Published in News on October 8, 2017 4:03 PM

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Dr. James Atkins Southeastern Medical Oncology Center

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, we heard our grandmothers say that many times.

It is true in cancer as well. The good thing is that there are steps you can take to help prevent cancer.  

To start with there are vaccines that exist that will help prevent cancer, from the HPV vaccines that we give our children to the Hepatitis B vaccine that is frequently administered.  

The HPV will help prevent cervical cancer as well as head and neck cancer and possibly rectal cancer. The Hepatitis B vaccine will help prevent Liver cancer. 

The environment that we live in also puts us at risk for cancer.  Therefore it is important to use sun screen and large floppy hats when outdoors as well as sun protective clothing.  This will decrease the incidence of all types of skin cancer.  We see a lot of skin cancer in NC, the more sun exposure you have the greater the risk so also try to stay out of tanning beds.

Aspirin has been shown not to just decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes but it also will decrease the risk of colon cancer by 30 percent. Having a colonoscopy can prevent colon cancer by removing polyps before they become malignant and if patients got their colonoscopies as recommended with a base line at age 50, then every 5 to 10 years after that-we could probably prevent 80 percent of colon cancers.

Mammograms have been shown to allow cancers to be picked up early so that they are less likely to result in the death of the patient. Now we also have low dose CAT scans of the lungs for patients who have been long time smokers to detect lung cancer early allowing for a higher cure rate from surgery.

Probably the most important factor is what we do to ourselves that puts us at risk for cancer.  Everyone know that tobacco will increase your risk for lung, head and neck, bladder, kidney and pancreatic cancers.

Approximately 80 percent of those cancers could be prevented.  

Alcohol puts you at risk for head and neck cancer as well as liver cancer.  

Obesity is the one factor that increases the risk of every cancer and also increases the death rate from every cancer.  We are seeing a significant increase in esophageal cancer and liver cancer that is directly related to obesity due to reflux and fatty liver.

The prevention of an illness saves the person the burden of dealing with the illness. Early detection is good but prevention is better.  

Some cancers don't have any early warning signs, some do.  Lung cancer may present with shortness of breath, chest pain, nagging cough, a cold that does not go away, or coughing up blood.  

Head and neck cancer may present with a sore throat, a mass in the neck, a change in the voice, or dental problems. 

Skin cancers usually present as a rough area on the skin that does not go away and is on sun exposed areas.  

Melanoma a different type of skin cancer usually presents as a dark mole that is growing or changing shape or color. 

Breast cancer when it is more advanced presents as a lump in the breast that is frequently found by the patient when bathing.  

Colon cancer may present with a change in bowel habits such as the development of constipation or diarrhea.

Sometimes colon or rectal cancer may presents with blood in the stool

Bladder cancer frequently presents with bloody urine or symptoms of a urinary tract infection that does not go away with antibiotics, and kidney cancer is usually asymptomatic until large and then may present with blood in the urine or flank pain.

Prostate cancer may present with difficulty starting or stopping the urine flow or if advanced may present with pain.

Esophageal cancer usually presents with difficulty swallowing food and people have had to change what they eat due to food getting stuck when they swallow.   

We at SMOC would prefer that everyone focuses on ways to prevent cancer.  

We agree with our grandmothers-an ounce of prevention is worth at least of pound of cure.  Please let's prevent cancer when we can.