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Cancer Screening and Prevention

Prevention (diet & exercise)

Cancer is very rare in adolescents. In 2011, there were less than 17,000 cases of cancer in people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the United States. Although cancer during adolescence is very unlikely, it is the perfect time to adopt a lifestyle that reduces your risk of cancer in the future. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of cancers of the breast, kidney, lung, endometrium, colon and prostate. Diet represents about 30-35 percent of cancer risk factors. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, low-fat protein sources (poultry and fish) and whole grains reduces your overall risk of cancer. A diet with a lot of red meat, refined sugars, potatoes and fat can increase your risk of cancer.

While genetics play a role in many cancers, most cancers are strongly linked to environmental carcinogens. Do your best to avoid things like cigarette smoke, excessive sun exposure, alcohol abuse and viruses like HPV, HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

Cervical Cancer Screening

In addition to diet and exercise, one of the best ways for a woman to reduce her chances of cervical cancer is to be vaccinated against HPV. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer. It has also been linked to other genitourinary cancers in all genders, so the vaccine is important for everyone.

Cervical cancer screening starts at age 21. Screening is done with a Papanicolaou test (commonly known as a Pap smear). If the results of the test are normal, the screening is done every three years. After age 30, the Pap can be done with HPV testing and if those results are normal, screening can occur every five years.

Melanoma

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, but is one of the least talked about. Melanoma kills over 9,000 people each year. Fortunately, you can take precautions and reduce your chances of skin cancer now. Each time you get a sunburn, your risk of melanoma and other skin cancers increases. Protect yourself by wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 any time you are in the sun and reapply every few hours. Wear protective clothing such as a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and pants. Avoid tanning booths. Another important method for decreasing your risk of harm from melanoma is early detection. Keep an eye on any moles or freckles that you have and look for these signs:

  • A: Asymmetrical shape. Melanomas are often irregular and not symmetrical. Normal moles are usually round.

  • B: Border. Melanomas can have irregular and difficult to define borders. Typically moles and freckles have distinct and regular borders.

  • C: Color. A mole that is multiple colors, or uneven in color is suspicious for skin cancer.

  • D: Diameter. Melanomas often grow larger than 5mm in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser).

  • E: Evolution. A mole that changes in shape, color, or size needs to be checked by a health care professional. Take photos of your larger freckles and moles so you will know if they change.

Make sure that your primary care provider is checking your skin annually. You can always schedule an annual physical at the Wellness Center. Melanoma and other skin cancer are very treatable if caught early.

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in young men. It is most common between the ages of 25 and 29. Testicular cancer is treatable, especially if it is caught early. Self-examination of the testicles is important for all young men. The following is the American Cancer Society’s recommendations on how to perform a self-exam:

  • The best time to do the self-exam is during or after a bath or shower, when the skin of the scrotum is relaxed. Hold your penis out of the way and check one testicle at a time. Hold the testicle between your thumbs and fingers of both hands and roll it gently between your fingers. Look and feel for any hard lumps or smooth rounded bumps or any change in the size, shape, or consistency of the testicles.

If you ever find anything new or abnormal, talk to your primary care provider or schedule an appointment at the Wellness Center.

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