On a daily basis, you may not think about your chances of getting cancer – and that’s probably a good thing for your mood. But, statistically speaking more than one million people get cancer in the U.S. every year and 1 out of every 2 men and 1 out of every 3 women will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime. Those odds are staggering and can seem overwhelming. I’ve worked with men and women battling a range of different cancers and have seen acupuncture positively support a broad spectrum of treatment regimens, including pharmaceutical intervention, chemotherapy, reconstruction and preventative surgery. Along those lines, these cancer statistics are leading more and more people to take preventative measures to beat cancer before they even get it.
You probably recently read about Angelina Jolie getting a preventative double mastectomy because she carried the BRCA1 gene, which increased her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer, which claimed the life of her mother at age 56. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Jolie wrote that her doctors estimated that she had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. Jolie took the risk seriously and decided that the choice for her – and her family – was preventative surgery. She opted for this path long before cancer became a reality for her and joined a growing number of Americans that are doing so.
Some recent studies have found that an increased awareness of cancer risks, understanding of the disease and insurance coverage for the preventative surgery if the patient carries a gene identified with cancer are leading more and more patients to take the route that Jolie did. This NPR blog looked specifically at the preventative mastectomy trend earlier this month.
But what about those of us that don’t carry a gene like BRCA1? Our lifetime chances of getting cancer are still frighteningly high. So, what can we do to prevent or preempt the disease? Anything? Thankfully, the answer is yes.
The Mayo Clinic recently issued “Cancer Prevention: 7 Tips to Prevent the Disease” and offers some sage advice, including:
- Don’t use tobacco
- Eat a healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active
- Protect yourself from the sun
- Get immunized
- Avoid risky behaviors
- Get regular medical care
We can’t prevent all ailments or preempt all disease, but we can take responsibility for our health, our exercise habits and our commitment to mental focus…and, in extreme cases, we can take preventative measures if they could minimize our cancer risk. Like Jolie said in her New York Times piece:
“Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.”
Author Sharon Sherman practices acupuncture and Chinese medicine in the Philadelphia, PA area.