SAN ANTONIO – One in three people will have cancer in their lifetime, making it the second leading cause of death in the United States. However, many cancers can be prevented or caught early.
February marks National Cancer Prevention Month. In honor of this, Dr. Shraddha Dalwadi, a breast radiation oncologist at UT Health San Antonio, joined Leading SA on Sunday to discuss cancer trends among younger demographics.
“So cancer rates here in San Antonio and in South Texas are similar to what we see nationwide. But what’s interesting is that we are seeing disproportionately higher rates of liver, stomach and cervical cancer,” Dr. Dalwadi said. “We are also seeing issues related to access to care, meaning we sometimes see neglected cancers because patients can’t get in to get treated early or screened early and otherwise preventable cancers by vaccines or different screening mechanisms that we have.”
“We’re discovering now that younger people are being diagnosed as well,” Dr. Dalwadi said. “So the question about why younger people are being diagnosed with cancer, is thought to be due to the changing diet patterns and exercise patterns that we see in modern times. Also, genetic risk factors are probably at play here. We’re also seeing things like HPV-related malignancies continue to rise as smoking-related cancers go down.”
What does Dr. Dalwadi suggest to aid cancer prevention?
“You can avoid alcohol and tobacco use as much as possible because those have been clearly linked to certain cancers,” Dr. Dalwadi said. “Eating a healthy diet, balancing fats, proteins and carbs. Protecting your skin when you’re out in the sun.”
Dr. Dalwadi also emphasized the importance of staying current on vaccines that can prevent certain cancers, like the HPV and hepatitis B vaccines. Beyond that, consistent screenings based on your risk factors and family history are crucial for catching cancer in early, more treatable stages.
While the trend of rising cancer rates in young people is alarming, certain cancers can be preventable when the right lifestyle choices and preventative healthcare steps are taken.
“You should continue to follow closely with your primary care doctors because they know you best, so they can advise you about which cancer screenings are important for you and how you can watch out for symptoms of cancer,” Dr. Dalwadi said. “So there are many different types of screenings, and your personal recommendation will be based on whether you’re a man or a woman and whether or not you have a family history of cancer or other risk factors for cancer.” .
For any screening information and to determine if you are old enough to take tests, Dr. Dalwadi suggested speaking with your primary care physician.