Some cancers move slowly through your body, giving you time to catch them. But others move like a freight train – and wham. By the time you notice their warning signs, it’s too late.
How can you protect yourself against such deadly calamities? First, early detection is critical. Knowing exactly what your risks are will help guide early detection and arm you with the best solutions for prevention.
Start with this life-saving information on five of the fastest-moving cancers: pancreatic, brain, esophageal, liver and skin.
1. Pancreatic Cancer: The Cancer You’re Most Likely to Miss
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest. Of the approximately 44,000 people diagnosed each year, 38,000 will die. Part of the problem with detection involves where the pancreas is located – hidden deep in the back of the abdomen. Too often, by the time the tumor is located, the cancer has spread beyond the initial site, making it more difficult to treat.
- Abdominal or back pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Digestive problems
- Light-colored stools
Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors
Risk #1: Two or More Family Members Diagnosed With Pancreatic, Breast, Colon or Ovarian Cancer
Family history is an important risk factor since up to 10% of pancreatic cancers are inherited. Some genes associated with breast, colon and ovarian cancer, such as the BRCA2, may also put you at higher risk. If you have family members with a history of these diseases, particularly if they were diagnosed under the age of 50, consult your doctor, who may recommend seeing a genetic counselor.
Risk #2: Drinking More Than 1 Alcoholic Beverage a Day or More Than 2 Sodas Per Week
Chronic alcohol consumption – more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men over an extended period of time – increases inflammation and can cause pancreatitis, which can lead to genetic damage of cells. Studies also show that people who drink two or more soft drinks per week also have an increased risk.
Risk #3: Type-2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not adequately produce or use insulin, a hormone normally made by the pancreas. Insulin helps the body utilize glucose (sugar), allowing glucose to enter cells and be used for energy. With diabetes, you see abnormal growth of insulin, which can lead to abnormal cell growth. Additionally, in people with diabetes, the glucose remains in the blood, resulting in high blood glucose levels, which can cause cell damage and long-term complications. Research shows that diabetes can either be a risk factor or symptom of pancreatic cancer. Most of the risk is found in people with type-2 diabetes; this type of diabetes most often starts in adulthood. If you have diabetes and you’re also at high risk for pancreatic cancer in terms of family history, inform your doctor who may want to do some blood or genetic testing.
Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Solutions
Solution #1: Reduce Fatty Red Meats and Processed Meats
Those who eat large amounts of red meat, processed meats and also meats cooked at a high temperature are believed to be more prone to pancreatic cancer. Reduce your intake of these foods high in saturated fat and nitrates.
Solution #2: Add 2 Servings of Red and Yellow Vegetables
As a general rule for cancer prevention, eat five servings of vegetables per day. Red and yellow vegetables – yams, tomatoes, squash, red and yellow peppers – are exceptional choices since they contain protective antioxidant-rich flavonoids and lycopene.
Solution #3: Curcumin (750mg/Twice a Day)
A naturally occurring substance found in turmeric, curcumin has been shown to inhibit the growth of pancreatic cancer cells and even prevent pancreatic cancer entirely in laboratory animals. New research shows that taking 750mg of this supplement daily can help stop the growth of pancreatic cancer.
The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Research Center has made great strides in pancreatic research. To donate, click here.
Brain Cancer: Is Your Headache a Warning Sign?
Approximately 50% of patients who have brain tumors report headaches. Bear in mind that headaches are very common and brain cancer is very uncommon. It’s only very specific types of chronic headaches – those that wake you up in the middle of the night or in the morning – that may indicate a brain tumor and should be brought immediately to your doctor’s attention.
Additional Warning Signs
- Blurred vision
- Balance problems
- Tingling in the arms or legs
- Personality or behavior changes
Brain Cancer Risk Factors
Risk #1: You’re Over 50 Years Old
Brain cancer occurs most frequently between the ages of 55 and 65. If you fall within this age range, be aware if you experience symptoms tied to brain tumors.
Risk #2: Three or More CAT Scans to Head/Neck Area
In general, a CAT scan releases ionizing radiation, which can be damaging. What’s more, data suggests that one-third of all CAT scans carried out in the United States are unnecessary. The research linking three or more CAT scans of the head or neck area to brain cancer was found in people who had a family history of this disease. Be a smart patient if you are in a situation where a CAT scan is recommended and discuss alternative tests, such as an MRI.
Risk #3: Heavy Cell-Phone Use
The link between heavy cell-phone use and brain cancer is a highly debated issue. However, bear in mind that cell-phone use is still in its early stages, and the data on its dangers is currently inconclusive. However, it’s still wise to follow the precautionary measures listed below.
Brain Cancer Prevention Solutions
Solution #1: Use an Earpiece With Your Cell Phone
As a precaution, limit radiation exposure from your cell phone by using an earpiece. Or use the speakerphone function. Encourage your family members, especially children and teenagers, to do the same.
Solution #2: Keep a Headache Diary
If you’re concerned your headaches could be something more serious, keep a diary for two weeks. Include details such a when, where and what time you had headaches and to what severity. Are they like migraines or other types of headaches you’ve experienced before? Then see your doctor to review its contents.
To help keep track of your headaches, click here for a headache diary.
Solution #3: Eliminate Cooked Ham, Processed Pork and Fried Bacon
Meat products such as cooked ham, processed pork and fried bacon contain a lot of nitrates, which may be connected to brain cancer and other cancers as well.
Brain cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers. To support finding a cure, click here to donate to The Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure Group.
Esophageal Cancer: Could That Lump in Your Throat Be Deadly?
A lump in your throat that doesn’t go away could be a sign of esophageal cancer. Depending on its location, you may not even feel it, so it’s important to also look for other symptoms.
Other Warning Signs
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
Esophageal Cancer Risk Factors
Risk #1: Eating a High-Acid Diet
These six substances may be associated with esophageal cancer and should therefore be consumed in moderation:
- Breath mints
- Raw tomato
- Raw garlic
Risk #2: Smoking
Smoking is not only deadly for your lungs but also for your esophagus. First, nicotine loosens the muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus and elevates acid production in the esophagus. And of course, nicotine is carcinogenic.
Risk #3: Barrett’s Esophagus
Barrett’s Esophagus is the result of consistent acid reflux, a condition where the delicate tissue lining of the esophagus is eventually replaced by tissue that is similar to the lining of the intestine. This change in tissue cells can lead to cancer.
Esophageal Cancer Prevention Solutions
Solution #1: Wait 3 Full Hours After Dinner Before Going to Sleep
It takes three full hours for your food to digest. This is not an issue during the day, but can pose a problem at night since lying down can cause and increase reflux, which damages the esophagus. Always wait three full hours after your last meal before going to sleep.
Solution #2: Treat Heartburn With Acid-Blocking Medication
If you suffer from heartburn, PPI (proton pump inhibitors) and H2 blocker (acid antihistamine medication) over-the-counter medications can help this condition from developing into something worse and damaging your esophagus. However, these medications can affect how calcium is absorbed, which you need for bone strength. Talk to your doctor about what treatment is best for you.
Solution #3: Get a Nasal Esophagoscopy
Anyone over 50 suffering from long-term heartburn, throat-burn, coughing or hoarseness should get a nasal esophagoscopy. This easy screening procedure involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end of it down the esophagus and requires no sedation.
The DeGregorio Family Foundation is 100% focused on finding a cure for esophageal cancer. Click here to make a donation.
Liver Cancer: Could Your Favorite Foods Be Causing Liver Cancer?
Liver cancer rates as one of the scariest cancer diagnoses, with a dismal five-year patient survival rate of only 10%. Most patients don’t pick up on symptoms until liver cancer is in very late stages.
- Upper abdomen or right shoulder pain
- Unintended weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling very full after a small meal
Liver Cancer Risk Factors
Risk #1: Apple-shaped Body Type
Obesity in general is a major risk factor for liver cancer. An apple-shaped body marked by visceral fat – fatty tissue around the abdomen – is associated with risk factors such as diabetes and fatty liver disease. This type of obesity also causes metabolic syndrome that can lead to liver cancer and a host of other diseases. Avoid excess visceral fat by maintaining a waist size that measures half your height. See Solution #1.
Risk Factor #2: Chronic Alcohol Consumption
Excessive drinking on a regular basis can lead to cirrhosis. A liver plagued by cirrhosis creates a ticking bomb for liver cancer. As the liver tries to repair inflamed tissue by regenerating and repairing, a cancer-producing mutation can occur. If you are going to drink, choose red wine which contains antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation in the liver.
Liver Cancer Prevention Solutions
Solution #1: Eliminate Added Sugars
Food with added sugars increases your risk for developing obesity and diabetes, thus increasing your risk for fatty liver, cirrhosis and liver cancer. To keep your liver healthy, check ingredient labels for hidden sugars such as high fructose corn syrup.
Solution #2: Hepatitis B Vaccine
Chronic hepatitis is the most common cause of liver cancer. If you get tattooed, have unprotected sex or have blood transfusions, you can be exposed to hepatitis B. Today, children are vaccinated for hepatitis B, but if you are in your 40s, it’s very likely you have never received this vaccine. If you partake in high-risk behaviors, ask your doctor about being vaccinated. You can be screened for liver cancer with blood and ultrasound testing.
Liver cancer could be eradicated in our lifetime thanks to The American Liver Foundation that promotes research and prevention. Click here to donate.
Melanoma: The 10-Second Skin Cancer Test That Can Save Your Life
This year, nearly 70,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer. To ward off this deadly disease, early detection is critical.
- Irregular moles, growths and patches
Skin Cancer Risk Factors
Risk #1: You Have Light Hair and Eye Color
If you have light hair and eye color, that means you don’t have as much melanin, or pigment, as darker-skinned people; the more melanin you have, the greater the skin’s defensive reaction to damaging UV rays. Still, people with darker skin/hair color are not immune to skin cancer.
Risk #2: You Had 1 or More Severe Sunburns as a Child
Sunburns are a result of skin cells going into shock; this signals your body to overproduce cells, which can cause malignancies. Be sure to use an ample amount of sunscreen – apply at least a shot-glass-amount of SPF 30 every 1-2 hours.
Skin Cancer Prevention Solutions
Dr. Oz’s 10-Second Skin Cancer Test
You’ll need a number 2 pencil with an unused eraser. Check your most obvious moles against the eraser head by using this ABCDE guide:
A: Is it asymmetrical? (The eraser head is symmetrical and the mole should be too.)
B: Is the border as clearly defined?
C: What color is it? Color should be brown or black and consistent.
D: Diameter should be no larger than the eraser.
E: Pay attention to its evolution. Make it a habit to check your birthday suit on your birthday, including nails, scalp and toes.
If you’re concerned about a mole after trying this test, take a picture of it. Put a ruler up next to it when you take the picture. Then place the picture on your calendar and measure it again every month to see if it’s changing. If so, see your dermatologist immediately.
For further help performing a self-exam and tracking your moles, click here for a mole chart.
Join the fight against skin cancer by donating to the Melanoma Research Alliance. Click here to make a donation.