Cancer can be life-threatening and, despite the advances in cancer treatment, increasing numbers of people are affected by this disease. At currently projected figures as many as 16 million will have been diagnosed with cancer in 2020. What can you do if you already have a family history of cancer and are healthy, but don’t know if cancer will strike in the future?
Be aware of your facts and figures – there are some high risk groups in cancer. If you have a family history of any cancer you need to be more judicious in getting diagnostic tests done on a regular basis, under the guidance of your doctor, whether you have symptoms or not. There are many cancers that are virtually asymptomatic till they reach an advanced stage, when they may even become inoperable or incurable or metastasized. Remember that some cancers like breast, colon, cervix and skin cancers are treatable as long as they are caught at an early stage.
Be aware of your genetic history – women with two more immediate female relatives (a mother and an aunt or sister) who have had breast cancer are at greater risk of developing breast cancer. So it is important for them to do self examination of breasts every month and immediately consult the doctor if they detect any lump or suspicious growth. The risk of other cancers like prostate and colon is also increased when at least two members of one side of the family (maternal or paternal) have had cancer or died of cancer. There are also cancers that are related: ovarian and breast cancer, colon and endometrial cancer and these can run in families.
Surgery to avoid the risk of getting cancer – Angelina Jolie got her breasts removed and also had a complete hysterectomy so that she does not get cancer in the future. However, she has a gene mutation that increases her risk of getting cancer. If you have a family history of cancer, you may undergo genetic counseling and then evaluate your risks. Even if you have a similar gene mutation, doctors may not advise getting pre-emptive surgery because all people who have genetic mutations will not necessarily develop cancer. You may be able to get treatment to prevent the cancer from occurring.
Treatment options – some cancers yield to surgery followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Other cancers fare better when radiotherapy is done first to shrink the tumors and then surgery is carried out. Research all options and keep in mind that new treatments and therapies are available on an ongoing basis. If you do find that you have cancer your doctor may even be able to tell you about drug or treatment trials.
Stay healthy – be on top of your health. Eat right, exercise, keep to a healthy weight, build your immunity, have a positive mental attitude, reduce stress and environmental factors (smoking, pollution, alcohol) and eat more fresh foods without additives and preservatives or fried foods that may be carcinogenic.
While you can avoid many carcinogens, genetic factors are those over which you don’t have any control. You can only get yourself tested for genetic mutations that may lead to cancer as all mutations or minor mutations don’t.
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