A year ago, at the age of 25, I was suspected of having ovarian cancer. I had no symptoms except for a large growth in my left ovary which was found out quite accidentally after a long air travel. My doctor did not commit for a surgery before ruling out any carcinogenic properties through a CA-125 blood test. I knew what ‘carcinogenic’ meant and I did not sleep that night. The next morning when I woke up I was mentally prepared for a terminal disease and the painful treatments that may come by. But the test turned negative and the ovarian cyst was removed through a simple procedure immediately. But from that day on, my outlook towards life saw a tremendous change. I was no more scared of doctors, hospitals and blood. And a single term of 24hours while I awaited my blood results taught me what life was, in its deepest sense.
Cancer is a terminal yet common disease. I read that not all cancers can be prevented and a minority are gene related. Others are linked to acquired mutation i.e., which one develops during one’s life time. Nobody seem to possess any definite knowledge about preventing cancer as the causes are still uncertain. Though tobacco smoke and alcohol are often the triggers many people with cancer have not even seen cigars or alcohol in their lifetime. Then what caused cancer in them? Even the doctors can’t give definite answers.
Nevertheless, research does speak of possible cancer triggers or carcinogens that may make up to the 200 different types of cancers.
- Genes! It is the genetic mutation that makes a cell cancerous. Some people are born with them while some acquire them as they age. I don’t believe in the theory of genes because, off the records, even if you don’t have a genetic predisposition you can get any disease. But theory states that if you have two or more close relatives with a certain disease your risk of developing it is high.
- Tobacco and alcohol. Smoking along with a genetic predisposition increases your risk of developing lung cancer. I knew of a doctor who smoked and died of lung cancer and knew of another doctor who never drank and still died of liver cirrhosis.
- An unhealthy diet. Who doesn’t like French fries? Yes, those yummy golden coloured lovables that fill your stomach? Even my 2 year old niece would grab at them if given a chance. An excessive diet of red meat, processed foods, saturated fat and the like can be a boost to cancers including bowel, stomach, mouth, food pipe and breast cancer.
- Age and body constitution. Cancer develops as you age and aging men are susceptible to prostate cancer if women are to breast and cervical cancers. Overweight and sedentary people are at a higher risk of developing any disease including cancer.
- Immunity. It is our immunity that keeps us alive and kicking. It is maybe next to only God. We know the story of free radicals and antioxidants. Only a good immune system can fight off free radicals and deter cancer. Your recovery can be slow if you lacked nutrition and immunity before developing the disease.
- Excessive exposure to sun, various types of radiations, asbestos, viruses etc. can also trigger off certain cancers.
Now, let’s analyse the issue of deterring the development of cancer together.
Somewhere on the way while travelling I read a notice board that spoke of cancer causing papayas. Could a fruit like papaya cause cancer? The news kept me intrigued.
From the known causes we deduce that a healthy lifestyle can prevent cancer to an extent and lower the risk levels.
- Avoid contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapy to lower the risk of breast cancer. Have children before your mid thirties and keep up breast feeding to stay breast cancer free.
- Reduce weight and quit alcohol to be on the safer side.
- Be on the move and eat a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- According to experts, reducing your saturated fats and treating bowel problems can keep you away from colon cancer. Eating right fats like flaxseed, pumpkin seed, canola, soybean (not hydrogenated), walnut, safflower, sunflower, sesame, and virgin olive oil also account for.
- Broccoli (with its phytochemical sulforaphane and glucoraphanin) is a highly recommended vegetable for people who are at a high risk of developing these cancers.
- Moderate quantities of soy (isoflavones) consumption bestows your body with enough body building proteins. Soy is studied for its assumed link with breast cancer. However, it is a great aide if you are a vegetarian in need of protein.
- Guys have good news as selenium is found to lower certain types of cancer risks like prostate cancer. It reduce the chances of prostate, colon, and even gastric cancer. If you know how to control your diet treat yourself with chicken, eggs, steak or fish once a week for selenium. Fish also contains Omega 3 fatty acids to cut your risk up to 39 percent. To read more about Omega 3 click here.
- Drinking at least two cups of milk can thwart the development of colon cancer by 22 percent.
- Thanks to the research on garlic that showed the world that garlic can reduce cancer risk by 31 percent.
Bottom line: Knowing that at least one third of the cancers are preventable should motivate you to a healthy and conscious lifestyle.
Please feel free to share your knowledge on cancer prevention in the comments section.
-AparnA K V