Cancer – Don’t Let it Scare You Silly

The days may drag, but the years fly by. It feels like a week ago that I was scrambling to get my three kids into costume with an enormous pregnant belly in the way. Wasn’t it only a couple of days ago that Thing One and Thing Two were crawling around in their blue wigs? It seems that way, and yet, there they were yesterday, going door to door on foot, begging for candy.

A year, as fast as it is, is how we measure time, anniversaries, birthdays, mammograms, etc. Only a year ago, I had just started writing YesFive, and I covered cancer for a couple of weeks in honor of October being cancer prevention week. When October 2011 rolled around, it literally felt like only a couple of months since I had written about cancer, and so, I never addressed it. Today is November 1st and I realize that not only are new people reading YesFive (thank you!), it is never a bad idea to revisit cancer prevention and screening. It is such a frightening topic, many people opt to simply not think about it – which is definitely short-sighted and silly. Here are five quick points on what you should be doing.

1. Diet – Maintain a healthy, balanced diet with lots of whole grains, fiber, fruits and vegetables. Limit your intake of fatty foods, processed foods and red meat. Increase your intake of omega-3 fats that are found in flax seed, fish oils, and nuts.

2. Lifestyle – Exercise. Do NOT smoke and do not allow others to smoke around you. Drink only in moderation.

3. Know your family history – Make an effort to find out what killed your relatives. Everyone used to be afraid to say the “C” word, so it may not be as easy as it sounds. But, do a little probing. Discuss what you find with your doctor. It may change the type of maintenance care you need.

4. Get regular check ups - Speaking of your doctor, well visits are a perfect time to discuss your risk of cancer, and to determine what screening exams you should have.

5. Screening – There is no blood test that checks for all types of cancer, but there are tests that are recommended for certain patients. Mammography, colonoscopy, annual gynecological exam, PSA and skin checks may be in your future. If they are recommended, do not put them off. Do not be so afraid of a bad diagnosis you would rather live in the dark. The earlier a cancer is diagnosed, the far better the outcome. We can have hope that better detection and treatment is in the near future.

It is four years since I lost my mother to ovarian cancer and not a day goes by when I do not wonder, “What if we caught it earlier?” I urge you to pay attention to your body, to take the time to make your health appointments and to remember a healthy lifestyle isn’t only about appearances. It is not selfish to focus on your well-being. I imagine, like me, many of you have your own little monsters who need you alive and well. Who else is going to carry those trick-or-treat bags and sew those costumes?

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