Cancer is the general name for well over 200 different diseases, each with some common traits that can affect virtually every part of the body, including the organs. These common traits include abnormal cell division, the tendency to be invasive and the tendency to spread from one area to another. Cancer is typically named for the body part or organ where it is first discovered or can be named for the kind of tissue in which it arises.
– Adenocarcinomas: found in glandular tissue
– Sarcomas: connective tissue
– Adenosarcomas: both connective and gland tissues
– Leukemias: blood cells
– Lymphomas: lymph nodes
– About 85% of all cancers are solid tumors.
(Source: Ammer 2005)
In women, reproductive cancers (breast cancer or pelvic area cancers) make up about half of all cases. In women, lung cancer is the biggest cause of cancer-related death, followed by breast, endometrial and ovarian cancers. The earlier that a cancer is found, the better the prognosis. There are a number of tests that should be done, especially for certain risk groups, with recommendations given for these tests. In addition, there are some dietary suggestions that the American Cancer Society suggests as being beneficial to reducing cancer risk. In addition, nutrition during the treatments of cancer (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation) is also very important.
Cancer – Warning Signs to Watch For
While these warning signs are not perfect by any means, it is important to not only know them, but also to pay heed to them and have them checked by a doctor if you notice any of the following:
– A change in bowel or bladder habits
– A sore that does not heal
– Unusual bleeding or discharge
– A thickening or lump in the breast or anywhere else
– Persistent indigestion or difficulty swallowing
– Changes in a wart or mole
– A nagging cough or an unusually hoarse voice
(Source: The American Cancer Society)
Not all cancers will present with all or even with any of these warning signs, as some cancers are silent and will grow without any kind of hint at all. Prostate cancer, for instance, can lay dormant in the body for decades. Many men who die from other causes may have actually had prostate cancer without ever having known it. It is important for men to be tested for prostate cancer regularly, however, the preferred course of treatment is to wait and see. There is no actual medical intervention if there is no physical impairment or if the cancer is not invading other structures at the time of its discovery.
Testing Schedules for Cancer
There are a number of screening tests that the American Cancer Society recommends for those without other risk factors. Those who do have an increased risk, including a family history of particular cancers, should follow the guidelines established by their own physician.
– Sigmoidoscopy (preferably flexible) should be done for both genders starting at age fifty and should be repeated every 3-5 years.
– Fecal occult blood test (checks for bowel cancer) should be done for both genders starting at age fifty and should be done yearly.
– Digital rectal exams for both genders, starting at age forty, should be done yearly.
– Pap tests (which checks for cervical cancer by looking at cervical cells) should be done for all women who have become sexually active or have reached the age of 18. There is some controversy over how often the pap smear should be repeated, with the doctors suggesting that it be done every year until there have been three normal tests in a row and then every two years. The insurance industry is suggesting that the testing interval be every two to three years if there are no abnormalities found. Each woman’s doctor should be allowed to make the decision for these tests individually. In addition, the HPV test may be better than the standard pap smear at catching cervical cancer in its earliest and therefore most treatable period. (Source: Seppa 2009)
– Pelvic exams for women, with two different guidelines: for women ages 18-40, it should be done every 1-3 years and for those over 40, every year.
– Endometrial tissue samples should be done for the first time after a woman has reached menopause. The doctor will define how often this should be done for women who are considered to be at high risk.
– Breast self exams should be done by women at home every month once they reach the age of 18-20. The doctor should show the woman how to do this correctly. There are also charts online that you can print out and follow until you are comfortable with the best procedure. (A tip: doing your breast exam in the shower is the easiest way to do it, because the soap and water allows your fingers to glide over your skin in a much smoother way.)
– Mammography should be done starting at age 50 and repeated every 1-2 years, unless the woman is deemed high risk.
Dietary Suggestions to Reduce the Risk of Cancer
There are several foods that the American Cancer Society recommends as being beneficial to reducing the risk of developing certain cancers. These foods are:
– Soy or dried beans. Both contain plant estrogens, which may reduce the risk of certain pelvic cancers as well as breast cancer.
– Tomatoes, carrots and red peppers. These are rich in vitamin C as well as carotenoids, which may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
– Greens and cruciferous vegetables. These may reduce the risk of lung, colon, rectal, stomach and esophageal cancers. They may also play a role in reducing additional cancers, including breast, bladder, pancreas and larynx cancers.
– Garlic, onion and leeks. These contain allium compounds that may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
– Olive oil. It may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
– Milk and milk products. They may reduce the risk of breast and colon cancers
– Salmon and other oily fish. They may reduce one’s overall cancer risk.
Food combinations to try as well:
– Ground flaxseed (provides fiber, lignans and plant-sourced omega 3’s) plus berries, cottage cheese or soybeans may reduce the risk of breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. To try these, mix a handful of berries and a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into a serving of low fat cottage cheese.
– Olive oil and vegetables (provides phytochemicals, omega 3’s and vitamins and minerals) may allow for better nutrient absorption as well as protection for some cancers. To try these, make a stir fry of your favorite veggies, using a small amount of good quality olive oil to fry them.
– Tea and tofu (provides anthocyanin, proanthocyanin and catechin as well as soy protein) may stop cancer before it starts. To try these, using your favorite flavor of tea (white, green, black, red or herbal) and silken tofu, make a bubbly and creamy dessert. Brew the tea and then allow it to cool to room temperature. Soften and blend the tofu until extra creamy, stirring in the tea (about a cup to 1 cup of the tofu). Toss in berries for flavor, or choose raw almonds. Spoon into dessert cups and serve as is or refrigerate for a slightly firmer texture.
– Low fat dairy products plus Vitamin D fortified foods that provide calcium both and Vitamin D may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
(Source: Magee, RD. 2008)
The Need for Protein
In addition to the foods that are recommended by the American Cancer Society and other experts, protein is beneficial in dealing with cancer for a number of reasons. First, it plays a large role in the immune system, primarily because antibodies are proteins. Second, a number of the essential amino acids that are provided by protein foods and supplements are beneficial to the immune system as well. Finally, protein helps the body to stay strong and healthy overall, and makes it more able to handle the rigors of cancer and cancer treatments. Profect, from Protica, is a great source of protein (with 25 full grams of protein per serving) and is one of the most portable ways to take your nutrition with you. It also has all of the Vitamin C that you need for the day, as well as 10% of B vitamins.