We all know the old saying, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” Well, that may be true about many things, but when it comes to cancer, nothing could be further from the truth.
Understanding as much as you can about cancer is an important tool in helping to cure or prevent it. See how much you know (or don’t know) by taking this quiz:
- Which of these four leading causes of cancer death—lung, prostate, breast and colorectal—does not have a screening test for early detection?
- Can you describe the National Cancer Institute’s “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters” program?
- Which is the most preventable form of cancer?
- True or false: Obesity is a risk factor for some types of cancer.
- Why is it a good idea to know your family history of cancer?
- As yet, there’s no standard screening for lung cancer, although some hospitals are using techniques like spiral computed tomography (CT) that can detect tumors at a much earlier stage than a standard chest X-ray. The other three cancers have reliable screening tests: the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test for prostate cancer, mammography and clinical exams for breast cancer and sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy for colorectal cancer.
- “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters” is an NCI program in partnership with other governmental agencies, to promote the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber that may help protect against many diseases including cancer. The NCI also suggests Americans reduce dietary fat, increase dietary fiber and keep alcohol consumption to two drinks daily for men and one for women.
- Of the more than 100 known cancers, lung cancer is the most preventable. Ironically, it also happens to be the number-one cancer killer. Researchers say tobacco causes more than one-third of the nation’s 560,000 cancer deaths each year. If every smoker quit, lung cancer deaths would fall 87 percent, according to the American Lung Association. If you need help quitting, support groups and products such as transdermal nicotine patches, nicotine gum and medications that help reduce withdrawal-related anxiety can help you succeed.
- True. An estimated 32 percent of the adult population is now considered obese. Obesity is linked to cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, uterus, cervix, ovaries, kidney, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, rectum and esophagus. Lack of exercise, which contributes to obesity, is also linked to breast and colon cancer.
- If your family suffers a high incidence of a specific cancer, that’s a warning that you too may be at high risk for this disease. But knowing its symptoms and taking preventive measures can help you sidestep your family’s cancer curse. If you have a family history, share this information with your doctor. He or she may have you begin screenings earlier. Tests and lifestyle changes—nutritious eating, exercise, watching your weight, avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol—are the best ways to outrun inherited cancer.