Since 1938, the President of the United States has proclaimed April as National Cancer Control Month. This month is dedicated to raising awareness for cancer prevention and treatment throughout the US. For many years, the death tolls from cancer have steadily declined, due in part to better education and heightened awareness about how to prevent certain types of cancer, recognize the signs and symptoms of cancer, and how to seek proper treatment.
Among the many methods of prevention, screening is one of the most effective ways to detect pre-cancerous cells and provide early treatment. Some of the most easily screened cancers include:
- Breast Cancer: screening includes yearly mammograms for women ages 40 and older
- Cervical Cancer: screening includes Pap tests at least every 3 years for women ages 21 and older
- Colon and Rectal Cancer: screening includes yearly colonoscopies for men and women age 50 and older
In addition to screening, vaccinations are available to help treat and prevent certain types of cancers. These cancer vaccinations work to prevent specific infectious agents that cause or contribute to the development of cancer. Following are FDA approved cancer vaccines:
- Guardasil or Ceravix: these vaccines are designed to protect women against certain strains of the cancer causing human papilloma virus (HPV)
- Hepatitis B Vaccine: this three-shot series given to children is designed to protect both men and women against the Hepatitis B virus, which can cause liver cancer
- Provenge: approved by the FDA in 2010, this vaccine helps to treat metastatic prostate cancer
Other clinical trials are being performed to help develop additional vaccines to treat more types of cancer.
In conjunction with medical prevention, the most effective way to prevent some types of cancer involve these simple lifestyle changes:
- Don’t use tobacco products
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Eat a healthy diet
- Be physically active
- Avoid overexposure to UV rays
- Practice safe sex
Although cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the US, it is also one of the most easily preventable. Making an effort to protect your body and utilizing the available resources can help prevent a future cancer diagnosis, or even death.