Take time this February to focus on cancer prevention
We can choose to devote our time to many different things each day, week and month throughout the year. It never seems like we have enough time in our day even for the basics. However, our health deserves a tuneup, even when we know our plates are overloaded.
Cancer can have a major impact on our mental health while impacting the rest of the body. By staying prepared and working with ourselves and our healthcare teams, we can possibly prevent cancer and the mental health stressors associated with the illness. Tying our prevention efforts to our focus on our own mental health can have positive impacts on our overall health and wellness. By working to prevent illness, we can also benefit mentally. If our bodies are cared for physically, we can focus our efforts on our mental health needs.
We spoke with the professionals at Iris by OncoHealth about the emotional toll that cancer can have on us and a care platform that can support people with cancer.
Iris by OncoHealth is a digital care platform that provides supportive care via smartphone to people with cancer, including the ability to speak with oncology nurses 24/7 and to meet with oncology-trained mental health therapists.
“We created Iris because there are huge unmet needs among people with cancer, especially when it comes to mental health and finding a therapist with oncology expertise,” said Andrew Norden, MD, MPH, MBA, Chief Medical Officer, OncoHealth, and an accomplished board-certified neuro-oncologist.
“The emotional ‘side effects’ of cancer can be as difficult as the physical side effects. Biological, psychological, and social challenges contribute to cancer-related distress,” said Karen Fasciano, Psy.D., Mental Health Clinical Director, Iris by OncoHealth.
Other quotes from Karen Fasciano, Psy.D., Mental Health Clinical Director, Iris by OncoHealth:
Oncology mental health professionals can help patients to process and cope with emotions, adjust to illness, build resilience, and access effective treatments to address the emotional impact of cancer.
A cancer diagnosis can bring uncertainty and change and often requires building on existing strengths and developing new skills for managing emotions and relationships. Oncology mental health clinicians partner with individuals and families to help navigate these changes and build resiliency. Attending to the emotional side effects of cancer is crucial. Asking for support is a sign of strength.
The process of coping with changes and emotions related to cancer is dynamic. Coping is not a one-time event and rarely does a single attempt to cope work. Coping is ongoing and develops and unfolds during cancer treatment as new situations, information, or feelings arise.
Coping with cancer can feel like being on a boat at sea. Sailboats are built to navigate through the uncertainty of the weather, tides, land, and other obstacles. They’re resilient, adapting to forces outside their control. Sails can be pulled in or let out, and the rudder changes direction. You can shift your sails, invite others to join you, and change your direction using the rudder as you cope with unwanted illness.
The Simplest Means
Here are a few things that you can do to be proactive about your health and prevent cancer.
One of the simplest ways to reduce our risk of cancer is to eat right. This may not always seem easy, especially when fast and convenient options are sometimes less expensive and can be ready on demand instead of having time to plan and prepare a meal. Ensuring we have a well-balanced diet filled with vitamins, minerals, and the proteins our body needs can significantly reduce our chances of certain cancers. Properly hydrating our bodies with water is a large part of eating right. Certain cancers can be triggered by the additives in the foods and drinks we consume. Keep in mind that eating right is better for our bodies in many ways.
Another important aspect of our overall health and cancer prevention is to give our health a checkup. By having routine visits with your family healthcare provider, you can alert them whenever there is a new concern for your health. Remember that healthcare providers are on your team in the fight against cancer.
If you have a new lump or bump or feel that something just doesn’t seem right, make time to see your healthcare provider. Monthly self-checks can help this measure, as the more you know about your own body, the more likely you are to catch on when something is amiss.
It is important to check yourself monthly for new or changing moles, lumps in breast tissue, armpits, and around the groin, and any abnormal bleeding, swelling, or tenderness. These issues would prompt a visit sooner than your normal annual visit.
Watching what we put into our bodies can greatly reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer. Reducing and stopping the use of cigarettes, tobacco, and nicotine products lowers the risk of oral cancers and lung cancers. Lowering your alcohol intake level also may reduce your risk of certain types of cancers.
Lowering sodium and sugar intake is another important part of cancer prevention. This goes along with eating smart, but they are major contributors to an overall unhealthy lifestyle that can increase your risk of cancer.
It is best to be physically active, if possible, in order to best reduce your risk of certain types of cancer. Being physically active can also help to keep you at a healthy weight, which in turn, also lowers your risk of cancer. Be sure that any physical activity is approved by your physician before trying something new or particularly challenging. Your healthcare provider will be able to recommend appropriate physical activity for you.
Being active can help us to maintain a healthier lifestyle and body weight. Lower body weight can help to reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer. Lowering your BMI and staying active is part of the recipe for cancer prevention.
Sunscreen is one of the easiest and most important parts of skin cancer prevention. Anyone and everyone should be wearing some form of sunscreen or skin barrier when exposed to the sun. Wide-brimmed hats and UV protective clothing are also recommended to help with skin cancer prevention, alongside the use of sunscreen. Babies and children are especially vulnerable to the sun’s damaging rays. Make sure to lather those kiddos up when they have sun exposure. Sunglasses are also important to help protect the eyes from sun damage.
For more information on the American Institute for Cancer Research’s recommendation for cancer prevention, please click here.
For more information Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for skin cancer prevention, please click here.