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Practice cancer prevention each and every day

March 8, 2015
Barbara Grassley , Reinbeck Courier

What do *you* do to prevent cancer? February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and as winter moves toward spring, it's a great time to make or renew your commitment to put your health first. Take time to visit your health care professional and discuss your family and personal health history and which cancer screenings are right for you. Screening can detect cancer early, when it is most treatable, and in some cases stop cancer before it starts.

It is estimated that over 589,430 men and women will die in 2015 from cancer including 6,440 in Iowa. More than half of cancer deaths more than 250,000 - can be prevented by taking action that includes getting screened.

Here are a few of the most common screenings to discuss with your health care professional:

Breast Cancer Mammogram. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam done by their health care professional every three years. Women over age 40 should get a mammogram and have a clinical breast exam every year. Those who have a family history of breast cancer are at higher risk and might need to start screening earlier.

Cervical Cancer - Pap Smear. Women in their 20s should have a Pap test every three years. Women ages 35-64 should have both a Pap and HPV (Human Papillomavirus) test every five years. If you have HPV, smoke, use birth control pills or have had multiple sexual partners, you may be at a higher risk and may need to be screened more often.

Prostate Cancer - Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test. At 50, men should consult their health care professional to see whether or not getting screened for prostate cancer is right for them. Men may be at a higher risk if there is a family history of prostate cancer.

Colon Cancer Colonoscopy or Stool-Based Tests. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States. Starting at age 50, the current recommendation is for men and women of average risk get screened. You may need to start screening earlier if you have a family history of cancer or colorectal polyps, smoke or are overweight. Talk to your doctor about which screening test is right for you.

Skin Cancer - Skin Exam. Starting at age 20, have your doctor check your skin annually. Examine your skin at home once a month and tell your health care professional about any changes. You are at a higher risk for skin cancer if you spend a lot of time in the sun or use tanning beds. Always use sunscreen with SPF of 30 or more when in the sun, and avoid the sun when it is highest in the sky.

Lung Cancer Low-Dose Spiral CT Scan. If you smoke and even if you have quit smoking, discuss with your doctor whether lung cancer screening is right for you. Men and women are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer if they smoke (or have smoked). Even if *you* have never smoked, if you have been exposed to second-hand smoke, you should be concerned about the possibility of developing lung cancer.

Start reducing your risk of cancer by incorporating these healthy eating and exercise tips into your everyday life style:

Eat Healthily. Make healthy living a priority in your everyday life by eating a nutritious, balanced diet. Gradually make small changes to your diet, and you will be well on your way to ensuring that healthy eating becomes second nature. Incorporate more vegetables, fruits and whole grains into your diet, skip processed meats, reduce your fat intake and limit alcohol. While red meats should still be a part of your lifestyle, like everything else, they should be consumed in moderation.

Exercise. Maintaining a healthy weight is considered to be a preventive measure for many cancers and can also reduce other health risks. Try to exercise at least five times a week for 30 minutes. Even if you can't do that, exercise as much as you can. It is far too easy to say, "I don't have that much time" or some other excuse. Any exercise you are able to do is better than none at all. To sum it all up, make healthy lifestyle choices and get appropriate screenings to help reduce your risk of cancer. Share this life-saving information with friends and loved ones to help raise awareness of how to lower their risk of getting cancer. Learn more about reducing your risk of cancer at

Barbara Grassley is the spouse of Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. She is a 28-year breast cancer survivor and is a member of the Executive Council of the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.



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