2013-10-25 / Community Events

Cancer related deaths reduced through awareness

By Cris Hightower
DDEAMC Hematology-Oncology Clinic

Breast cancer awareness is a major focus during the month of October. It is also an opportunity to assess our knowledge of cancer prevention measures. With that in mind, we will define cancer and look at related statistics in the United States. We will then focus our attention on major cancer related variables. And finally, we will look at methods of prevention and their correlation to the Performance Triad.

Definition of cancer: Cancer is a term used to describe many diseases characterized by abnormal malignant cell division which results in healthy tissue destruction. These cancer cells sometimes spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymphatic system.

Cancer statistics: As of January 2012, there were more than 2.9 million women with a history of breast cancer in the United States. It was estimated that during 2013, there will be approximately 296,980 new cases of breast cancer among women and it will claim more than 39,000 lives. During the same year, it was estimated that 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and it will claim more than 400 lives. The leading cause of cancer related deaths among women in the United States is lung cancer. Breast cancer is the second leading cause.

There are more than 100 types of cancer. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, here in the United States breast, lung and colorectal cancer accounts for the highest number of cancer related deaths among women. They also determined prostate, lung and colorectal cancer accounts for the highest number of cancer related deaths among men. The most commonly diagnosed cancer types among children are leukemia, brain tumors and lymphomas.

Question: Can I do anything to minimize my cancer risk?

Answer:“Yes, absolutely”!

The number of cancer related deaths can be drastically reduced through awareness, screening and lifestyle changes. It is important to note that both awareness and lifestyle changes are risk-related factors or variables that are entirely within the control of each individual.

Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army Surgeon General is guiding our medical command with a concept called the Performance Triad. This concept has refocused our military health care system to a system for health. Our new system for health is guided by three components of activity, nutrition and sleep to restore and strengthen overall health and wellbeing. Here again, we see three risk- related variables that are greatly within one’s control and have become a new focus promoted within our healthcare system. Thus, we have a refocused system of health whose goal is to restore and strengthen our force.

Being aware of riskrelated variables help guide us toward methods of cancer and general illness prevention. We can and must take responsibility and actions to reduce our cancer risk and improve our overall wellbeing and survivability. Now let’s look at awareness, screening and lifestyle changes. Keep in mind that the Performance Triad’s sleep (rest), activity (exercise) and nutrition (diet) are included in the list of lifestyle changes.


This is the first step towards prevention. Be vigilant regarding knowledge as it relates to your individual risk factors and possible steps toward prevention.


• Men: Perform monthly self-testicular examinations. Maintain regular physical examinations which include prostate cancer screenings to detect prostate cancer early. Physicians provide prostate sceening by performing a digital rectal exam or DRE test. Blood studies can also be used to detect prostate cancer.

• Women: Perform should perform monthly breast self-examinations. Maintain regular physical examinations which include a clinical breast examination by a doctor. Women 40 and over are recommended to have breast cancer screening mammograms, every one to two years.

• Women: Due to the effectiveness of the PAP test, cervical cancer dropped from the leading cause of cancer deaths, to the most preventable type of cancer. It is recommended that women have an annual well-woman examination visit with their gynecologist or health care provider to discuss family history and individual screening recommendations.

• Men and women: It is very important to talk to your doctor about family history of cancers. Colorectal cancer can be detected early using various screening measures. The most common method is the colonoscopy. The American Cancer Society recommends all men and women have a screening colonoscopy test at age 50. However, if a primary family member was diagnosed with colorectal cancer it is recommended to be screened at the age of 40.

Lifestyle changes

• Avoid all tobacco products: Smoking is at the TOP of the list of preventable causes of death and disability in the United States. Put another way, smoking is a related cause of 1 out of every 5 deaths per year. Put another way, smoking causes more than 443,000 deaths per year. If you smoke, stop. If you need help, contact Health and Wellness for Smoking Cessation (706) 787-6756.

• Maintain a healthy diet: rich in fruits and vegetables. If you need further support, speak to your provider for nutrition education classes that are available.

• Exercise regularly: If you have health concerns and / or have not been exercising, seek medical advice before initiating an exercise regimen.

• Maintain a healthy body weight: Do you know your optimal weight or body mass index? Find out at: www.cancer.org/ healthy/ toolsandcalculators/ calculators/ app/ body-mass-calculator

• Maintain adequate rest / Sleep: 7-8 hours of rest or sleep / 24-hour day.

• Limit exposure to the ultraviolet rays: sun and tanning beds.

• Limit or avoid alcohol (less than two drinks per day).

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