April is Cancer Control Month

Every year in the month of April, organizations from coast-to-coast honor those affected by cancer by committing to strategies aimed at reducing the burden of cancer. Cancer control is far from a new idea. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the first Cancer Control Month in April 1943. He called upon medical professionals, media, and all other agencies and individuals to join his movement. Every April since, organizations and individuals participate in raising awareness of cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

Cancer control focuses on preventing cancer (reducing the number of people who get cancer), avoiding complications (side effects or conditions that happen or get worse because of cancer or treatment) and lowering mortality rates (helping people survive cancer).

Preventing Cancer

Research and studies show we can take action to lower our risk for getting cancer. Making healthy choices is a strong start.

  1. Avoid tobacco and secondhand smoke. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in North Dakota for both men and women. Compared to nonsmokers, people who smoke are 25 times more likely to die from lung cancer. Smoking can also cause cancer of the mouth and throat, stomach, colon, liver, pancreas and more. Secondhand smoke also increases cancer risks. If you or a family member has a smoking or tobacco habit (including vaping or e-cigarettes), learn how to quit by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Schedule a time to speak with a counselor and set a quit date. If you live in North Dakota but do not have a phone number with a 701 area code, call 1-866-399-7848 for help with learning how to quit tobacco.
  2. Keep a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese raises your cancer risk. A healthy weight is different for everyone, depending on your age, gender, how much exercise you get and more. Learn how to assess your weight and get tips for exercise, healthy eating and more.
  3. Protect your skin. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. To protect your skin, limit your exposure to ultraviolet rays by applying sunscreen or staying in the shade when you are outdoors. You should also avoid using tanning beds.
  4. Limit alcohol. Studies show regularly drinking alcohol increases your risk for several types of cancer, including liver, breast and throat. If you do not drink alcohol, don’t start. If you do drink alcohol, do it in moderation, which means no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

Another important part of cancer prevention is screening. The best time to get tested is before you have symptoms. Getting screening tests regularly may find breast, cervical and colorectal (colon) cancers early when treatment is likely to work best. Lung cancer screening is recommended for some people who are at high risk. Talk with your health care provider about what screenings they would recommend for you.

Vaccines or shots also help lower cancer risk. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps prevent most cervical cancers and several other kinds of cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine can help lower liver cancer risk.

Many things are associated with cancer, but avoiding tobacco use and keeping a healthy weight are two of the most important steps you can take to lower your risk of getting cancer.

Explore ways to lower cancer risk at different ages: early childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, midlife and older adulthood.

Avoiding complications. Unfortunately, being as healthy as possible is not always enough. Other factors also play a role in our risk for cancer, and despite our best efforts, we could still get cancer. Cancer and its treatments often cause side effects or problems related to the disease or treatment. These complications include nausea and vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, urinary and bladder problems, and many more. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and is experiencing problems, speak up. Your doctor or another member of your health care team can talk with you and your family about ways to manage side effects and help you feel better during your cancer treatment.

Doing your part.

While we do not always know the exact cause of cancer, research has proven we can take steps to reduce our risk. By learning about and taking actions to side-step our personal risk factors, and by talking to your health care provider about getting screened, we can all support cancer control.