Living Well

10 Things You Need To Know About Cancer Prevention


1. Some Viruses Can Cause Cancer

You know that smoking (and passive smoking) as well as prolonged sun exposure put you at a higher risk of developing cancer. What’s less commonly known is that some viral infections can raise your risk, too. The human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to cervical cancer, while the hepatitis B virus (HBV) increases the risk of liver cancer – and both viruses can be passed from person to person through blood or sex. The good news is, you can safeguard yourself with vaccinations against HPV and HBV.

2. Sugar Has A Role

There is no evidence linking sugar to cancer. However, eating too much of it can cause you to gain weight or become obese, which can increase your cancer risk. So, it is important to exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

3. Go Easy On Alcohol

The less alcohol – beer, wine or spirits – you imbibe, the better you are for it. Alcohol has been linked to increased risk for mouth and throat, oesophageal, liver, colorectal, breast and stomach cancers. Men should not have more than two drinks a day, and women should just have one.

4. Most Cancers Are Not Inherited

Only five to 10 per cent of cancer cases are caused by abnormal genes that run in the family. Other cancer-causing factors include an unhealthy diet and lifestyle, viruses, and excessive exposure to sunlight and tobacco smoke.

5. 40 Per Cent Of Cancers Are Preventable

The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research have these recommendations to lower the risk of developing cancer: Stay active, eat more fruits and vegetables, cut down on red meat and sugary drinks, use more fresh ingredients in cooking, and eat less processed, salted as well as smoked food like ham, bacon and sausages. Added preservatives, like nitrates, and the process of smoking, salting or drying may produce carcinogenic compounds in food.

6. Not All Tumours Are Cancerous

Tumours are formed when cells in the body do not die when they should or when there is abnormal cell growth. However, tumours can be malignant or benign. Malignant tumours are cancerous as they can invade surrounding tissue and spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Benign tumours, on the other hand, do not spread or invade surrounding tissue and, once removed, they do not usually recur.

7. Don’t Skip Screenings

Cancers that are detected in early stages when they are still small are easier to treat. And there’s a very good chance of a cure if the cancer hasn’t spread. So opt for age-appropriate screenings, even if you are well. Common screenings include a mammography for breast cancer, a colonoscopy or a stool test for colorectal cancer, and a Pap smear for cervical cancer.

8. Never Ignore These Symptoms

For most cancers, pain is not an initial symptom. In fact, symptoms usually only appear when the cancer is in the advanced stages. However, you can watch out for these warning signs and, if they persist, see a doctor as soon as possible.

  • Lumps in the breast or on other parts.
  • Hoarseness or a persistent cough that is not due to a viral illness.
  • Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing.
  • Unexpected or rapid, significant weight loss.
  • Sores that do not heal.
  • Unusual bleeding or vaginal discharge, or blood in phlegm, urine or stool.
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhoea, or a change in the pattern or size of stool.
  • Changes in the colour, shape and size of a wart or mole.

9. Breast Cancer Is The Biggest Killer

From 2010 to 2014, there were 61,522 cancer cases diagnosed in Singapore. Of these, 31,743 affected women. Breast cancer was the most common and most fatal, causing 2,049 deaths. Here are the top five cancers among women during that period:

  • Breast cancer : 29.2%
  • Colorectal cancer : 13.3%
  • Lung cancer : 7.6%
  • Uterine cancer : 6.6 %
  • Ovarian cancer : 5.5%

Source: The Singapore Cancer Registry, Annual Registry Report, Trends in Cancer Incidence in Singapore, 2010-2014.

10. Alternative Therapies May Help

Cancer cannot be treated with alternative therapies, but they may complement the treatment you’re undergoing. Patients are advised to inform their oncologist of any supplementary treatment or medication they are considering to ensure there are no side effects and that the effectiveness of the cancer treatment is not reduced.

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