President Obama once talked about the aspirational desire to cure cancer. He naturally never went as far as put forth a specific schedule or ways of measuring success, but his words had the ring of an achievable goal. Except for one thing. Cancer is not one disease, it’s the combination of many. Each cancer is different from the other. While doctors and patients remain pessimistic about the chances of seeing any positive change in the foreseeable future, we need to remember that less than five years ago, there was no hope that immunotherapy could extend a patient’s life by as much as a decade for aggressive cancer types such as melanoma. Today, it can. So it seems foolish not to believe that the many types of cancer we face today can’t be beaten tomorrow. Science never stops making discoveries, and people never stop fighting for better and more effective treatments. In short, it is conceivable that future generations might think of cancer as another kind of flu that they can get rid of with a simple cure of drugs. Who knows? Humans in the future might even choose to ingest a cancer pill to lose weight, just like some people rely on the tapeworm diet to get their bikini body back. Beating cancer doesn’t feel like an impossible dream anymore. And it starts right here, right now, by choosing your weapons.
- Take your health seriously
Cancer is characterized by an out-of-control cell growth, which creates a mass of body tissue called a tumor. The trigger for the abnormal cell growth is closely linked to your lifestyle, your genetics, and your environment. While you can’t control the genetical aspect, you are in charge of your lifestyle, and, to a certain extend your environment too. What this means is that the best way to prevent cancer is to keep your body healthy and to avoid the introduction of unhealthy and harmful substances and habits. A simple and direct example of keeping harmful substances at bay focuses on avoiding tobacco; smoking, chewing and inhaling tobacco can have dramatic consequences on the health of your lung, throat, mouth, pancreas, kidney, bladder and much more. Similarly, reckless behaviors, such as doing drugs, can also increase the risk of cancer by damaging essential body functions. Additionally, sticking to a healthy diet enables you to provide your body with all the necessary vitamins and nutrients it requires. More importantly, it means that you must avoid as much as possible potentially harmful food, such as processed food with is connected to serious health conditions. Keeping your body healthy is at the core of ensuring that it doesn’t generate tumors. Consequently, what you eat is one side of the medal. The other side is about keeping your body active, with a minute of 30 minutes of physical activity every day – which you can combine in longer sports sessions throughout the week.
- Don’t delay medical checks
There are not many people who love medical checks. In fact, most individuals agree that medical checks often feel like a waste of time. You need to try to arrange an appointment, then wait for ages before you can finally see a doctor – despite having agreed on a day and time, it’s very rare that your actual appointment happens at the scheduled time –, and wait for days before you receive your results. It’s easy to understand why some people prefer to wait for things to get better by themselves instead of getting checked by a medical professional. The problem is: Things don’t always improve by themselves. You don’t have the luxury of time when your health is on the scale. The earlier you know what’s wrong, the sooner it can get fixed. Most cancers are perfectly treatable if they can be diagnosed early, so there’s no need to fear the result of a scan or a biopsy. But you need to remember that you’re the one in charge here. Doctors can’t help you if you don’t let them diagnose you.
- Stay informed to know the risk
Your family history can provide indications about your risk of developing cancer. If there have been cases in your family, it’s important to get yourself tested to define whether you are potentially carrying the same risk. This kind of test is made at a preventive level, and while the result can be stressful, you need to remember that it’s an indication of your chances of getting ill. The sooner you know, the sooner you can make sure to reduce the risk. Angelina Jolie has made the first page of several newspapers as a result of her preventive cancer surgery. Indeed, after discovering that she had a high risk of breast cancer, Jolie decided to undergo a double mastectomy. More recently, upon discovering high risks of ovarian cancer, she decided to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes. While these surgical operations are often perceived as traumatic, in Jolie’s case, they are voluntary and entirely preventive. The actress and philanthropist have argued that she doesn’t want to take any chance for the sake of her children. This is exactly the kind of informed decision that can save a life in the long term.
- Be there for patients
There’s more than just one way to deal with cancer. Taking care of your body and your health is one thing. Taking care of others is another, but it matters just as well. Specialist nurses and medical experts, such as the vacancies on this site, are the people who deal with cancer every single day. Not all their patients fight against a bitter illness. Some will simply need a preventive surgery before going back to their normal life. Others need to follow a yearly treatment to get rid of the damaged cells in their bodies. Even when cancer doesn’t get the best of you, it is a much-feared enemy. As a specialist medical fellow, it is your role to accompany patients on the path to recovery – in the best of cases – or on a smooth path to the end – in the worst of cases. Nurses and doctors are not only handling a disease. They are also helping the mind to heal from the trauma.
- Research is vital
Cancer research never stops – and that’s a good thing. Recently, the University of Southampton in the UK decided to look at ways to target the cell types that cancer uses to reduce the viability of a tumor. Indeed, cancer tends to focus on cells involved in the fibroblast process and turn them in Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts. The research is currently looking at the potential biological ways of interrupting CAFs development, using drugs to block necessary enzymes. The first experiments have shown a reduction in the size of tumors by up to 50%. This promising result still needs to be tested on people.
- Charity for the community
Have you considered that you could help to beat cancer, even if you’ve got no medical degree? More and more charities and organizations are looking at ways to increase awareness and generate donations. Every November, thousands of men all over the world embrace the awareness campaign for male health, Movember, and use their facial hair growth to support a relevant charity, as explained in this article. In 2013, the Movember Foundation raised nearly $21 million. Under the playful excuse of facial hair, what foundations are looking for is a conversation. Talking about important health issues can save lives too.
Every day brings us a little closer to beating the big C. We’re not there yet. But changing your lifestyle, looking after your and other people’s health, and supporting research and awareness campaigns is the best way to close the distance between us and the cure. Yes, we can beat cancer. Not today, but maybe tomorrow.