Doctors: Early screenings and detection are key to protecting yourself against cancer

February is National Cancer Prevention Month

Cancer is a disease that can happen to anyone at any time in their life. Early screenings are key when it comes to protecting yourself against it.

The National Cancer Institute defines cancer as a disease in the body’s cells that grows uncontrollably and spreads to other parts of the body.

The START Center for Cancer Care is an organization here in our city that focuses on cancer treatment.

Doctor Divya Asti, a Medical Oncologist at the START Center says when it comes to cancer, there are two risk factors, modifiable and non-modifiable.

Modifiable risk factors include things you can do to change your risk of developing cancer.

They include:

    • Stop smoking
      • 80% of lung cancers are associated with smoking
      • Associated with other cancers like colon, prostate, bladder, head and neck, etc.
    • Limiting alcohol intake
      • Mainly associated with liver cancer
    • Being overweight
      • Mainly associated with breast, uterine, abdominal and liver cancer
    • Using sunscreen every day
      • Usually, 15-30 spf recommended
      • Outside for long periods of time: 50 spf

“Smoking cessation is the number one step you can take to prevent a cancer from developing,” Asti said. “Being active, physically active. Maintaining an ideal body weight which is a BMI of 20 to 25 is going to help decrease the incidents of cancer.”

Non-modifiable risk factors include things you cannot change:

    • Genetics
    • Family history

Since cancer is a widely generic term, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact symptoms of cancer. Some cancers have specific symptoms. For example, in breast cancer, a lump might be felt. In colon cancer, a person could have chronic constipation, diarrhea or blood in the stool.

Other generic symptoms of cancer may include, but are not limited to:

  • Losing weight quickly/suddenly
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in specific part of the body

“I think the most important thing is to see your primary care doctor, make sure you’re established with one, that way you can get routine blood work, you’re up to date on all your screenings and if you have any concerns, you can bring it to their attention immediately,” Dr. Asti said.

Early screenings and detections are helping people get their cancer diagnosis early.

Dr. Asti says over the last decade, cancer diagnoses have been up but mortality is down. With cancers being caught in the earlier stages, this is giving people a better chance at survival.

Dr. Asti emphasizes the importance of National Cancer Prevention Month and says it should serve as a reminder for everyone to go to the doctor if they feel like something is wrong.

“It’s kind of like a reminder at the beginning of the year that you have to make that appointment, make those screening tests and if anything happens, you have the whole year to plan and get things done,” said Asti.

You can learn more about the START Center and what they can do to help you if you are diagnosed with cancer, by clicking here.

About the Author

Halee Powers is a KSAT producer primarily focused on digital newscasts and events.

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