Most of us have been touched by cancer in some way, whether it has affected us personally or we have a friend, family member or colleague who has faced a cancer diagnosis. Perhaps this isn’t too surprising, considering the disease is the leading cause of death in Canada and the second leading cause of death in the United States, with the number of people it impacts projected to rise dramatically in the coming years.
Cancer is expected to claim the lives of nearly 600,000 people in the US in 2015 and more than 1.6 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed while in Canada, an estimated 78,000 deaths from cancer will occur in 2015 and nearly 200,000 new cases of cancer are projected to occur.
Although many advances have been made in understanding and treating this devastating disease, as the population ages and grows, the number of cancer cases is expected to skyrocket: in the US, the number of new cancer cases that occur each year is expected to rise 55 percent by 2030 and in Canada, new cancer cases are expected to increase by about 40 percent by 2030.
Although these figures are bleak, there is a silver lining. Making lifestyle changes and adopting healthy behaviours can help prevent many cancer cases.
- All cancers caused by tobacco use and alcohol consumption can be prevented completely. To put this into even greater perspective, consider that in 2015, almost 171,000 of the nearly 600,000 estimated cancer deaths in the US will be caused by tobacco smoking, according to the American Cancer Society.
- It’s estimated that up to one-third of cancer cases that occur in economically developed countries are related to being overweight or obese, physically inactive, and/or having poor nutrition, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. Lifestyle changes and healthy habits can go a long way towards preventing cancer cases related to these factors.
- Many cancers related to HPV, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus and HIV can be prevented by behavioural changes, vaccination or by treating the infection.
- Many of the skin cancer cases diagnosed in the US and Canada each year could be prevented by protecting the skin from the sun and avoiding indoor tanning.
- Screening can help prevent colorectal and cervical cancers by allowing for the detection and removal of precancerous lesions. Screening can also allow you to detect cancer early before symptoms appear, resulting in less extensive treatment and more favourable outcomes. Screening is also known to reduce mortality for cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, cervix, and lung.
Armed with all this information, how can you try to prevent yourself from becoming a statistic?
The first thing you can do is take charge of your health by taking care of yourself. While preventive measures can help tremendously, the risk of cancer does increase as we age. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and you’re not sure where to turn, Best Doctors is here to help. In fact, in Canada, 20 percent of Best Doctors’ InterConsultation cases are oncology and hematology related. Whether you require assistance locating a specialist or need help better understanding your diagnosis, Best Doctors can guide you in the right direction.
 Statistics Canada (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2014001/article/11896-eng.htm)
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm)
 American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-044552.pdf)
 Canadian Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/cancer-statistics-at-a-glance/?region=on)
 American Institute for Cancer Research (http://www.aicr.org/press/press-releases/us-cancer-cases-rising.html)
 Canadian Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.ca/en/about-us/for-media/media-releases/national/2015/canadian-cancer-statistics-2015/?region=on)
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