Men have a 1 in 2 chance of developing some sort of cancer at sometime during their lifetime and a 1 in 4 chance of dying from cancer. For women, the risk of developing cancer is 1 in 3 and the risk of dying from cancer is 1 in 5, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute database.
Many factors, particularly age, sex and genetic inheritance, affect both your lifetime cancer risk and your risk of developing a specific type of cancer. But despite the risk, there are some people who do not get cancer even when a family history of cancer exists.
Why do some people get cancer while others don’t? That’s the new focus of an ongoing American Cancer Society study that was begun in 1950 and is now in its third generation. Three hundred thousand people between the ages of 30 and 65 are being enrolled in the latest phase of the study. Participants must be cancer-free when they join the study. After providing an initial blood sample and completing a comprehensive health survey, participants are sent follow-up surveys every two years.
The first generation study discovered the link between smoking and lung cancer. The second generation study begun in the 1980s linked obesity with increased cancer risk. The current study is exploring the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on cancer risk as well as the question of why some people get cancer while others do not.
Nearly a quarter of a million men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. For 30 million of those men that diagnosis will prove fatal. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. But big numbers make it hard to assimilate the risk, so let’s break it down:
If you are an American man, your risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer is 1 in 6 and your risk of dying from prostate cancer is 1 in 36. But if you are obese, your risk of death goes up dramatically.
“It is absolutely clear that obesity increases a man’s risk of dying from prostate cancer,” said Dr. Andrew Rundle, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City in an interview with NBCNews.com.
Obesity increased the risk of prostate cancer diagnosis by 57%; however, Dr. Rundle said further research is needed to determine if prostate cancer causes cancer or makes it more difficult to treat. Obesity is known to have a direct causal relationship to five cancers: post-menopausal breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer, esophageal cancer and endometrial cancer.
Cancer changes your perspective. It changes what is important and how you choose to spend your time. Whether you’ve just been diagnosed, are undergoing cancer treatment or count yourself among the growing legion of cancer survivors, cancer is a life-changing event. People with cancer or any debilitating disease realize that what is important is not how long you live, but how you spend your life.
It’s a lesson actor Michael J. Fox learned early in his adult life. Diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease when he was only 30, Michael has beaten the odds. His 20-year struggle with Parkinson’s hasn’t been easy for him or his family; but his ability to maintain his emotional equilibrium is nothing short of miraculous.
In a recent interview with AARP Magazine, Michael said it took time and family support to accept his fate and move beyond it; but his positive attitude has allowed Michael to become a tireless crusader for Parkinson’s and continue acting. Michael’s uplifting journey offers inspiration for cancer sufferers and others with debilitating diseases. He told AARP that he has been guided by the following thought:
“My happiness grows in direct proportion [to] my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations. That’s the key for me. If I can accept the truth of ‘This is what I’m facing — not what can I expect but what I am experiencing now’ — then I have all this freedom to do other things.”
This fall Michael will use that freedom to star in a new NBC comedy series. HIs message is clear: Set yourself free and live for today.
Cancer survivors that work with their cancer treatment team to create a plan for maintaining good health after cancer are most likely to thrive (see our previous post). Working with your Issels Integrative Oncology team to create a long-range lifestyle plan that addresses your physical, mental and nutritional health may both help your enjoy life to its fullest and prevent cancer recurrence.
Today we continue our suggestions for creating a cancer survivor’s manual:
The basic tenets of living a healthy lifestyle should form the core of a cancer survival plan. Discuss an appropriate exercise plan with your doctor and exercise regularly. Start slow, increasing exercise every 2 to 3 weeks as your strength returns. A good goal for most people is 20 minutes of cardio exercise (walking, swimming, etc.) and 30 minutes of resistance training 3 to 5 days a week.
With your medical team, develop a nutrition plan based on an anti-inflammatory diet that boosts your immune system. Many cancer survivor diet plans follow a basic Mediterranean diet which features plenty of antioxidant-rich fresh fruits and vegetables, fish high in omega-3s, nuts, beans, whole grains, lean meat and healthy oils. Maintaining a healthy diet can also help you lose weight, further decreasing your risk of cancer return.
Add stress-reduction activities to your daily routine. Learn relaxation techniques such as mindful meditation or progressive muscle relaxation to help keep stress under control. Many cancer survivors find the support and encouragement they need in cancer support groups. Some cancer centers offer after-care programs for cancer survivors to help monitor health and help cancer survivors stay on track.
When you are actively fighting cancer, the battle is all-consuming. Any excess energy is used up just getting through one day after another. There is little time to think, much less plan, for life after cancer. But experience has shown that cancer survivors who create a long-range post-cancer health plan are more likely to thrive.
With improved early screenings, new cancer vaccines and integrated cancer treatments, your chances of surviving cancer are better than they have ever been before. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are now 13.7 million cancer survivors in the U.S. Sixty-four percent of American cancer survivors have passed their 5-year anniversary, and 40% have lived 10 or more years after winning their battle against cancer. By 2022, NCI expects the number of cancer survivors to reach 18 million. All the more reason to have an after-cancer plan.
To increase your chance of long-term survival, the Institute of Medicine recommends that every cancer survivor work with his or her medical team to create a personalized plan for staying healthy after cancer. To encourage survivors to take this important step for prolonging their lives, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen, authors of the YOU health books, have been promoting what might be called a 5-step “YOU After Cancer” survivorship plan.
Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer should create a survivorship plan. Work with your oncologist and your Issels cancer treatment team to create a personalized plan. Plan building resources and sample survivor plans are available at JourneyForward.org. Some insurance companies may also offer plan writing services.
While revelations gained from brain imagery offer future hope for more effective pain management techniques for people who suffer from chronic pain, including cancer patients (see our previous post), taking a holistic approach to pain management currently offers the most successful pain relief.
Holistic medicine is actually a medical philosophy rather than a type of medicine. The holistic approach considers 5 important factors that affect an individual’s overall health and well-being:
Scientific research is beginning to prove what Issels patients and Issels cancer treatment teams know to be true from experiential evidence: that a holistic approach seeking to engage every aspect of a patient’s condition can produce amazing results, even when hope of recovery was considered slim.
Holistic techniques that have been successful in alleviating and managing cancer pain include:
Exercise. An essential component of pain management, exercise, even in its mildest forms, can help alleviate pain. Exercise helps to rid the body of hormones that exacerbate stress which can cause pain to flare. Exercise also helps keep muscles toned, limber and flexible which can also help to reduce physical pain.
Mind-body exercises. Techniques and exercises that help forge mind-body connections, such as yoga, therapeutic massage, meditation, biofeedback and acupuncture, have proven remarkably successful in helping cancer patients control pain.
Nutrition. Certain foods have been discovered to have pain-fighting qualities, including fruits such as red grapes and cherries, herbs and spices such as ginger and turmeric, fish, soy products and even coffee!