Cancer, let’s talk about it

At some point in our life many of us will be affected directly, or indirectly, by cancer. It is a diagnosis that affects not only the patient, but family, friends, colleagues. Most people are familiar with what cancer is. But is there anything we can do about it? That’s what I am going to talk about here, but also leave a few words at the end to those who struggle with cancer.

Cancer has more than 200 diagnoses

But firstly, cancer is cluster of more than 200 different diagnoses. They are all different, but the most common types of cancer in the UK are lung, breast, prostate and bowl cancer. Symptoms can hugely and are sometimes very general, like pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, affected vocal chords or neurological symptoms.

Why do we develop cancer?

There are several factors that contribute to the risk of developing cancer. Some we can’t do anything about. Some we can. I like to focus on the things we can do to improve odds and general quality of life. So I’m going to list five things that you and I can do to prevent or decrease the risk of some types of cancer:

  1. Don’t smoke. If you are, stop. If you aren’t, good for you.
  2. Drink in moderation. Or don’t drink at all. There’s a big debate going on at the moment on the “one glass per day keeps the doctor away” concept. It’s been found that one glass per day doesn’t decrease your risk of heart related diseases. Nor cancer. Rather the opposite. Various types of cancer in the gastric tract, breast and liver cancer are linked to excessive drinking. I could go further into this, but have to keep is short for now.
  3. Stay physically active. 150 minutes per week. Or 30 minutes per day. You can break it down to 10 minute sessions at the time. The important thing is that the work-out is at least moderately hard (i.e. makes you break a sweat and increases your breathing).
  4. Eat well. I know, what does that even mean? In general it means that you should vary what you eat, reduce the amount of pre-fabricated food as well as red meat, and maybe not eat excessively fatty or sugary food. In the midst of all this, don’t forget to enjoy what you eat. Healthy food doesn’t have to taste like cardboard.
  5. Stress less. There have been some studies showing that stress might increase the risk of developing cancer. It’s sometimes hard to control your calendar, but remember this: By having an outlet for stress, the stress-hormones released in your body can leave you system, instead of piling up. Physical activity is one way.

Things we can do to reduce the risk of developing cancer

These are things we can all do to decrease risk of cancer. As I mentioned there are things we can’t do anything about like: age, gender and hereditary factors.

Finally, to those who have cancer. Every case is different, just like human-beings are. But here are some things that I’ve learnt from working with patients that have very aggressive types of cancer: Try to follow the suggestions above. Moderate it to your ability and level of function. Staying active by going for walks or cycling can help with pain, fatigue, depression and nutrition. If you are going through chemotherapy, staying active throughout your treatment period can help you better cope it. It is important that you don’t ignore signals from your body and talk to your doctor before making any changes to your daily routines.

Here is my heartfelt best of luck to all of you. Take care of yourself and those around you.

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