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Keeping Cancer at Bay

Cancer can strike anyone.  True, but our odds of getting cancer do increase as we age.  According to the National Cancer Institute, most cancers occur in people 65 years and older.  Fortunately, when it comes to cancer, not everything is out of our control, and there are many things we can do to lower our risk.  Experts believe that up to two-thirds of cancers are influenced by factors within our control—things like our lifestyle choices, sun exposure, weight—so it appears we do have a say in the future of our health after all.

The first symptom of cancer is not usually pain, so what should you be on the look out for?  Certain nagging health issues shouldn’t be ignored, especially as you age.  The National Institute on Aging says to keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • A thickening or lump in the breast or any other part of the body
  • A new mole or a change in an existing mole
  • A sore that does not heal
  • Hoarseness or a cough that does not go away
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Discomfort after eating
  • A hard time swallowing
  • Weight gain or loss with no known reason
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Feeling weak or very tired

These symptoms may very well be attributable to something else, but only a visit to your doctor can rule out cancer.  Being vigilant about your health can help you get an early diagnosis and treatment, which is critical to ensuring a successful outcome.

Unfortunately there isn’t a magic pill (although the research on aspirin is looking promising!) that will prevent cancer, so what can you do?  The advice isn’t shocking or shockingly hard to follow.  Making healthier choices every day—exercising, eating plenty of fruits and veggies, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, wearing sunscreen—have a profound effect on our health.  Decide to take charge today by committing to make one small change at a time.  Your health depends on.

For more information on cancer and cancer prevention, visit the National Institutes of Health’s Institute on Aging and read their fact sheet Cancer Facts for People Over 50, or visit the National Cancer Institute’s website.