It’s true that cancer can be prevented. The World Health Organisation mentions that 30-50 percent of deaths from cancer could be prevented by modifying or avoiding certain risk factors that lead to the deadly disease. Remember the proverb ‘prevention is better than cure’? It works indeed.
It is an interdisciplinary branch of medical science that aims to prevent cancer and its development or progression through effective measures such as lifestyle modifications and avoiding the risk factors. This is all done through specialized strategies in place.
Let’s first look at the risk factors that are the root cause of all cancers.
The typical causes that have been known to increase your risk of getting any type of cancer are:
By keeping all these risk factors at bay, you can prevent certain cancers to a great extent.
Cancer is not a single disease but a group of related diseases. This is why there are different types of cancers and several causes that can increase or even decrease your chances of getting the dreaded disease.
Cancer prevention is ideally followed in three typical stages – Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Prevention.
Primary Prevention: This stage is launched well before the onset of the disease by eliminating or avoiding all risk factors associated with cancer such as smoking, and changes in lifestyle, diet, and environment.
Cancer Vaccination: Vaccines are scientifically prepared medicines that help you fight diseases. There are various types of vaccines for different diseases. Similarly, there are also vaccines that can prevent you from getting cancer. Presently, there are two particular vaccines that protect you against specific cancers – the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B vaccines.
Certain bacteria and, viruses can cause serious infections leading to cancer. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can cause cervical, vaginal, anal, and vulvar cancer if it remains in your body for a long time.
The Hepatitis B virus can cause liver cancer.
These deadly viral infections can be prevented if a healthy person without any signs of cancer undergoes vaccinations.
Genetic Screening: Genetic testing can estimate your chance of developing cancer especially if you have a family history of a type of cancer. The tests look for specific changes or mutations in your genes, chromosomes, or proteins.
While genetic tests cannot foretell whether you will get cancer, they can predict if you are indeed at higher risk for the disease.
It helps to also remember that only some people with a gene mutation will develop cancer, not all.
Genetic testing is usually recommended as a crucial part of cancer prevention because it can:
This stage is about finding precancerous conditions early, well before any clinical symptoms or indications begin to show up. This is helpful if you have a family history of a type of cancer
Chemoprevention: This is a revolutionary cancer preventive strategy where certain medicines are administered to treat a precancerous condition or to even keep cancer from developing.
These can be natural medicines too or in combination with scientific drugs.
Chemoprevention is administered if:
Risk-reducing surgery: This involves preventing cancer by surgically removing an organ that has the potential to cause cancer in the future. For instance, breast removal surgery or mastectomy, to prevent the occurrence of breast cancer.
Tertiary Prevention: This happens after the development of cancer by lessening the complications and preventing its reoccurrence.
As the name suggests this is a type of cancer treatment that encourages your body’s natural defenses – or immunity - to fight cancer. It either uses the natural substances in your body or manufactured medicines to improve the way your immune system works, to search for cancer cells already in your body, and destroy them completely.
Immunotherapy is of different types and also works differently in people. While some immunotherapy treatments spur your immune system to slow the growth of the cancer cells or even stop them from growing, other types can equip your own immunity to destroy the cancer cells or even stop them from spreading to other organs.
Your cancer specialist will decide if the Immunotherapy can be administered singularly or in combination with other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
With so many life-changing advances in cancer prevention, it is in your best interest to take the advice of your oncologist to decide the best preventive options.
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