Many of the same habits that can help prevent “the big C” can also aid in warding off a recurrence.
For Phil Waigand, a cancer diagnosis wasn’t part of the game plan. In 2009, Wiaigand, now 65, was living his dream, running a therapeutic horseriding program that helps people with disabilities gain greater independence. But it all came to a screeching half when he discovered blood in his stool.
“I immediately made an appointment with a colorectal doctor at Baylor Dallas,” Waigand says. “From there, I had a colonoscopy, they found cancer, and I went back in for colorectal surgery. It was my first stay in a hospital, so I was apprehensive, to say the least.”
But thanks to surgery and follow-up care, he is now cancer-free and making sure he stays that way.
“During my treatment, I learn a lot about how to keep my body strong and healthy,” he says. “It is so important to stay positive and relaxed when battling cancer, so I turned to the things I love, my wife, Beverly, music and support groups to help me do just that.”
Take a page from Waigand’s playbook and make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of cancer.
Start with these four strategies from the ultimate cancer survival guide.
STRATEGY #1: KICK THE STICKS
If you’re a smoker, there are few chances you can make that are more important than giving up cigarettes for good. About 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of all lung cancer deaths are related to tobacco use.
Smoking is also linked to many other cancers, including those affecting the upper throat, lips, esophagus and bladder.
“Quitting smoking is so important for cancer prevention,” says Roberto Rodriguez-Ruesga, M.D., a colorectal surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
STRATEGY #2: STAY UP TO DATE ON SCREENINGS
“After a diagnosis and treatment, the first thing you can do to stay healthy is to survey for early recurrence and to have the exams recommended by your doctor,” Dr. Rodriguez-Ruesga says.
This holds true for people who haven’t had cancer, too. Early diagnosis is a major factor in successful treatment, he says, so don’t skip out on screenings like colonoscopies, mammograms and Pap tests. If you have a family history of cancer, ask your doctor whether you may benefit from early screenings.
“Family history may increase the risk for a diagnosis, so we typically recommend that patients start screening 10 years before the age at which their relative was diagnosed,” Dr. Rodriguez-Ruesga says.
STRATEGY #3: CLEAN UP YOUR DIET
If the majority of your meals come from the drive-thru, it may be time for a diet makeover. That’s because one of the best ways to ward off cancer and other illnesses is to eat well.
“A low-fat, high-fiber diet that is based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and good fats, eaten regularly, can help lower your risk,” Dr. Rodriguez-Ruesga says.
STRATEGY #4: PRACTICE SUN SAFETY
Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer? According to the American Cancer Society, more than 4 million cases are reported each year.
To reduce your risk, be smart about spending time in the sun. Avoid exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when ultraviolet rays are at their strongest, and always wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even when it’s cloudy.
This content originally appeared in the September 2013 edition of Baylor Health Magazine.