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  • Writer's picturePhysical Therapy International Service

Cancer Prevention

Cancer is a disease that can start almost anywhere in the body. This disease is caused by changes to genes that control the way our trillions of cells function; especially the way they grow and divide. These changes can be caused by many factors such as lifestyle changes, genes from an individual’s parents and being exposed to cancerous causing agents in the environment. Some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably allowing the cells to spread from where It started to other parts of the body. The spread of cancer to a new part of the body is known as “metastasis”. Each person’s cancer has a unique combination of genetic changes, as the cancer continues to grow more changes will occur causing the cancerous cells to crowd out the normal cells. 

The top five most prevalent cancers in the world are; lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, and stomach cancer. Within the United States, there is considered to be a group of four cancers that are most prevalent. These cancers are: lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. From researchers’ perspectives, cancers like thyroid cancer, can soon be ahead of colorectal. The next two that are predicted to be more common by 2030 are melanoma and uterine cancers. It is strongly encouraged that people get screenings regularly by dermatologists, GI doctors, and other specialists in order to catch cancer early and prevent the cancer from spreading.

Cancer is a disease that affects a large number of people worldwide. It is a complex disease with various risk factors, including, exposure to harmful chemicals or other substances, as well as certain behaviors. Some risk factors are beyond our control, such as age and family history. A family history of certain cancers can indicate a possible inherited cancer syndrome and can be detected by genetic counseling. Most cancer risk factors are identified through extensive epidemiology studies. These studies examine large groups of people to compare those who develop cancer with those who don’t. The following are the most extensively researched known or suspected risk factors for cancer. Certain risk factors can be avoided, but others, such as growing older, cannot. Limiting your exposure to avoidable risk factors may lower your risk of developing certain cancers. These factors include: alcohol, cancer-causing substances, chronic inflammation, diet, hormones, immunosuppression, infectious agents, sunlight, and tobacco. The results of these studies show that people who develop cancer are more or less likely to engage in specific behaviors or be exposed to particular substances than those who do not develop cancer.

The prevention and early detection of cancer are vital for reducing the number of cases and improving survival rates. Primary prevention aims to eliminate or reduce exposure to cancer-causing factors such as environmental carcinogens, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and infectious agents that cause certain cancers. This can be achieved through immunization, tobacco control programs, reducing alcohol consumption, and promoting healthy diets and exercise. 

Secondary prevention through population-based screening programs aims to detect cancer at an early stage when it's more treatable. It's estimated that up to 50% of all cancer cases can be prevented through effective measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) collaborates with member states to develop national policies and programs that raise awareness, reduce cancer risk factors, and provide support for people to adopt healthy lifestyles.

When a member of a family is diagnosed with cancer, it’s beyond devastating. Families are not always sure about what to do in that situation. The best way to support families is to balance the roles and responsibilities of caring for someone with cancer. Families and caregivers can work closely with health professionals and receive clear instructions/guidelines on how to care for their loved one. A study was done to understand supporting cancer patients while using a mobile application. They found that using an app by means of communication makes the cancer patient feel supported especially with their health management.

In the realm of cancer care, a diverse group of healthcare professionals come together to form an interdisciplinary team dedicated to supporting patients on every level of their cancer journey. This team consists of oncologists who specialize in cancer treatment, surgeons who perform necessary operations, radiologists who interpret imaging studies, nurses who provide direct care and support, social workers who address emotional and logistical challenges, and counselors who offer mental health assistance. Among these professionals, physical therapists (PTs) hold a vital role in optimizing patients' physical function and well-being. PTs work closely with individuals to address a wide range of issues that may arise during cancer treatment, such as mobility limitations, pain management, fatigue, and muscle weakness. They collaborate with patients to create tailored exercise regimens that promote strength, flexibility, and endurance. Additionally, PTs offer manual therapy techniques to alleviate pain and improve range of motion.

Moreover, PTs play a critical role in helping patients manage treatment-related side effects, such as lymphedema or neuropathy, through specialized interventions. 

Learning that you have cancer can be a frightening process. Cancer affects 1 in 3 people in the United States. This disease is the second leading cause of death in the world but survival rates are improving for many types of cancer. Doctors have identified several ways to reduce the risk of cancer such as lifestyle changes, staying active, drinking water and scheduling cancer screening exams. Taking action over your health is what matters most!


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