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About one quarter of all deaths are caused by cancer. Find out how you can protect yourself or reduce the risk of cancer
Our body is made up of billions of cells. Normal healthy cells grow and multiply in an orderly, controlled manner. Cancer cells, on the other hand, multiply uncontrollably. They do not function normally and instead form a growth or tumour. These cancerous tumours can spread to nearby tissues and organs as well as to other parts of the body. Cancer kills by:
Related: All About Cancer
Cancer is a group of diseases. There are many types of cancer which can arise from the different types of cells in the body.
Most common type of cancer in Singapore are:
Source: Trends In Cancer Incidence In Singapore 2002-2006, Singapore Cancer Registry
Related: 4 Key Facts About Cancer In Singapore's Context
Cancer is not contagious like the flu or chickenpox. You cannot catch cancer from someone who has it.
Many cancers develop because of lifestyle habits such as smoking, excessive drinking of alcohol or eating too much fat (especially animal fat). Others are caused by factors in the environment such as sunlight, radiation and some industrial chemicals. By leading a healthy lifestyle and avoiding certain risk factors, about one-third of all cancers can be prevented from occurring.
Related: Run From Chronic Illnesses
Many people are afraid of cancer because they think it is a death sentence. In fact, when cancers is detected early, treatment is the most effective. Recognising the early warning signs and going for regular check-ups can save your life.
Cigarette smoke contains about 40 different cancer-causing substances. Almost all of those who develop lung cancer are smokers. Smoking also causes cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), oesophagus (gullet), stomach, pancreas, kidney and bladder. Even if you don't smoke, breathing in other people's smoke can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
If you do not smoke, ask any smoker you live or work with to avoid smoking in your presence.
What you can do:
Don't smoke. If you do, then quit.
Related: Quit Smoking Tips
Fruit and vegetables contain fibre and vitamins which help to reduce your risk of developing colorectal (large intestine) and stomach cancer.
The chemicals used to process food like ham, bacon, luncheon meat may form cancer-causing substances when they are digested. These substances have also been found in salted or preserved food (such as salted fish or pickled vegetables) and may lead to cancer of the stomach and nasopharynx. But you don't have to give up these food items totally. Just eat them less often.
Peanuts, seeds and grains that are not stored properly often become mouldy. Some of these moulds produce substances that can cause liver cancer.
Have some fresh fruit and vegetables at every meal.
Related: Learn more about Fruits and Veggies.
People who are overweight are at risk of developing cancers of the colon, rectum, breast and prostate. To maintain a healthy weight, engage in regular physical activity or sport. Reduce your intake of food high in fat or sugar. Use the BMI Calculator to find out if your weight is in the healthy range.
What you can do:
Aim to stay in the healthy weight range.
Related: Get Active For A Healthier You
Frequent sunburn may lead to skin cancer as the ultraviolet rays from the sun damage the skin. Fair-skinned people are more prone to skin cancer.
Avoid overexposure to the sun.
Related: Beauty From The Inside
Always follow the safety regulations as they are meant to protect you.
Take cover behind protective shields or stay in the "safe" area.
People who frequently drink large amounts of alcohol are at higher risk to develop liver cancer. They are also at risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat and oesophagus (gullet).
If you drink, limit yourself to not more than two standard drinks a day. One standard drink is roughly equal to:
Alternate your drinks with non-alcoholic ones. Drink them slowly so they last longer.
Related: Set Your Drinking Limits
Be on the alert for:
Pay attention to problems that won't go away or get better, like a persistent cough (with or without phlegm), hoarseness of voice, indigestion or discomfort, loss of weight for no reason, a change in bowel habits (such as persistent diarrhoea or constipation).
Tell your doctor about it right away. He can examine you and do some tests to find out if your problem is serious.
Early detection may save your life.
Related: Self Care And Self Medication
The risk of breast cancer for women increases with age. Women between the ages of 50 and 69 are encouraged to go for mammography (breast X-ray) once every 2 years and women aged 40 to 49 years old should go for mammography once every year. Besides going for regular mammography, carry out monthly breast self-examination to check for any breast changes.
Related: Screen For Cancer Before It's Too Late
A Pap smear test is a simple and quick test that detects cervical cancer at an early stage when it has a good chance of cure. A woman should go for regular Pap smears once she becomes sexually active.
Related: Screening FAQs: Cervical Cancer and Pap Smear
Speak to your doctor about your personal and family medical history. Certain medical conditions may increase your risk of developing some cancers. For example, people who are carriers of the Hepatitis B virus are more likely to develop liver cancer. Women infected with certain sexually transmitted infections have a higher chance of getting cervical cancer.
Your doctor can advise you how to prevent such conditions. But if you already have them, he can tell you what steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Some cancers (like breast and colorectal cancers) tend to run in families. If your parents, brothers or sisters have had cancer, discuss it with your doctor. He may recommend some screening tests to help determine your risk of developing the same cancer.
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This article was last reviewed on
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
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