Every year, on the first Sunday in June, communities commemorate National Cancer Survivor’s Day. Currently 13 million strong in the USA, and 20 million worldwide, this group of cancer survivors continues to grow due to better diagnosis and more effective treatments. A cancer survivor is anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, and survivorship begins at the time of diagnosis. All of us can probably think of several survivors in our circle of family and friends. Even after cancer treatment is over, one needs to pay attention to their health in the years ahead.
If you are a cancer survivor, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Make efforts to enjoy life to the fullest: Cancer survivors are doing better. Let’s use breast cancer as an example. The vast majority of stage I – III breast cancer patients will be cured with modern treatments. For stage IV breast cancer that is typically incurable, there are many treatments that can still help prolong life. Unfortunately, there are some cancers that are harder to treat and cure, but psychological wellbeing is important, regardless of the situation.
Remember those genes: Maybe you’ve heard about genes and risk of cancer. Yes, there are changes (mutations) in genes that one can inherit from parents that my predispose to cancer. Prevention is better than cure. As part of general wellbeing, it is important to ask if genetic testing might help (most individuals do not have such mutations and so not everyone needs to be tested). Some cancer survivors can be at risk for other preventable cancers due to unrecognized genetic mutations. For example, a woman with breast cancer found to have a BRCA1 mutation, will benefit from surgical removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes (in addition to removing both breasts) to reduce the risk of highly lethal cancers arising in those organs. If surgical removal of an organ is not feasible, there may be intensive monitoring programs to help detect a cancer early, were such to occur.
Next week, I will post the second part of this series. I always love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment or send me a direct message. If you found this helpful, do share freely with your family and friends.