Chia-How “Howie” Liu, MD, is a family physician on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: What are the three biggest things I can do to lower my odds of getting cancer?
Answer: There are a variety of cancers that we see in our practice. Breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and skin cancer are probably the most prevalent.
In each of these, early detection is the key. Routine screening for all types of cancer is imperative. It is even more important in people who have a family history of cancer.
Colorectal cancer is a slow growing cancer that usually starts with an abnormal growth or polyp in the large intestine or rectum. Most polyps are not malignant initially but if allowed to grow can become cancer. They should be removed as soon as they are detected. A colonoscopy is normally recommended for individuals by the age of 50, or even earlier if there is a family history of the disease.
The screening for prostate cancer should also be done in men 50 and older. If there is a history of cancer in the immediate family, the screening should begin at least ten years before the age the affected family member was diagnosed.
Breast cancer is the number two cause of cancer death in women in the United States. Every woman should learn how to do a self breast exam. Your doctor can show you how to do a thorough self exam. Any abnormality should be checked by a doctor regardless of age. She should have a baseline mammogram at the age of 35, or earlier if there is a family history. Mammograms should be done every year after the age of 40.
Although it is not known what causes cancer, lifestyle can play a big role in its prevention. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetable, and fish should be part of your diet. Limit the intake of red meats and foods that are high in fat. Whole grain breads, cereals, legumes and other foods high in fiber are good choices. Alcohol should be used in moderation. Smoking is known to cause lung cancer and is suspect in other types of cancer. It should be avoided.
It is important to know you own body. If there are unexplained changes talk to your doctor.