Men’s health: Cancer prevention, screening key |

Men’s health: Cancer prevention, screening key

Mary Beth TeSelle
Special to The Union
On Sunday, June 2, Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s Community Cancer Center celebrated Cancer Survivors Day with its annual picnic honoring the countless patients and families in our community whose lives have been touched by cancer. Cancer Survivors Day also coincides with Men’s Health Month – a great reminder to men to take steps to help prevent cancer through healthy lifestyle choices and regular recommended screenings.
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Our community is fortunate to have Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s Community Cancer Center. The center is part of the Integrated Network Cancer Program which links the cancer centers of SNMH, Mercy General Hospital and Mercy San Juan Hospital. The goal of the INCP is to provide comprehensive cancer care to the community, beginning with screening and diagnosis, through to treatment and support.

June is National Men’s Health Month – a great time for men to take steps toward becoming more proactive in their health and wellness. A good place to start is with cancer prevention and screening.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, men accounted for 9.5 million cancer cases diagnosed around the world in 2018. Women accounted for one million fewer cases.

The reasons behind the higher incidence of cancer among men are varied, but possible causes include the fact that men are less likely to take preventative steps – and less likely to seek a diagnosis and treatment for a condition once it exists.

The cancers that most often affect men are prostate, colon, lung, and skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Knowing about these cancers and what you can do to help prevent them or find them early (when they are small and easier to treat) may help save your life.

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Prostate cancer

A man’s risk for prostate cancer increases with age. Other than age, family history and ethnicity are the greatest risk factors for prostate cancer: African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men of any other race.

The American Cancer Society encourages men to talk to their provider about the pros and cons of testing, starting at the age of 50.

If you are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, you should have this talk with your provider starting at age 45.

If you decide to be tested, the ACS recommends the PSA blood test with or without a rectal exam.

Colon cancer

Colon cancers include cancers of the colon and rectum. These cancers are more common in people with a family history of this cancer, or who have polyps in their colon or rectum, or those with inflammatory bowel disease. Other risk factors for colon cancer include being overweight, eating a diet mostly of high-fat foods (especially from animal sources), smoking, and being inactive.

For people at average risk of colon and rectal cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends starting regular screening at age 45. People older than 75 should talk with their health care provider about whether continuing screening is right for them.

Colon cancer almost always starts with a polyp – a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum. Testing can save lives by finding polyps before they become cancer. If pre-cancerous polyps are removed, colon cancer can be prevented.

Lung cancer

Although approximately 80% of lung cancer deaths are believed to be due to smoking, people who don’t smoke can also develop lung cancer. Still, not smoking is one of the most important preventative steps you can take.

If you don’t smoke, don’t start, and avoid breathing in other people’s smoke. If your friends and loved ones are smokers, help them quit.

For help quitting, call your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.

Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital offers a lung cancer screening program that includes a screening exam and follow up reminders. Screening is recommended for adults 50-80 who currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years. For an appointment please call 530-274-6262.

Skin cancer

Like women, men are at greater risk for developing skin cancer if they have fair skin, especially with blond or red hair.

People who have had a close family member with melanoma and those who had severe sunburns as children are also at greater risk for skin cancer.

The best protection from skin cancer is using sunscreen regularly and avoiding unprotected sun exposure. As with most cancers, early detection is key for treatment of skin cancer so a regular skin screening by your physician is recommended.

Preventative Steps

In addition to regular screenings and exams with your primary care provider, there are steps men (and women!) are encouraged to take every day that can reduce the risk for chronic conditions. These include:

— Regular exercise

— Eating a balanced, healthy diet

— Avoiding all forms of tobacco

— Reducing stress

To learn more about your personal risk factors and what screenings may be appropriate for you, talk to your doctor.

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