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The VA encourages Veterans to be proactive in preventing cancer

cancer prevention

COLUMBIA, South Carolina -- National Cancer Prevention Month is observed in the United States every February. Its primary goal is to raise awareness about cancer prevention and encourage individuals to take proactive steps to reduce their risk of developing cancer.

The VA’s participation in Cancer Prevention Month emphasizes the importance of regular screenings and encourages individuals to be proactive in monitoring their health. By promoting early detection and prevention strategies, this campaign empowers individuals to take charge of their well-being and seek timely medical attention.

Approximately 56,000 Veterans are diagnosed with cancer every year in the VA system. For particular cancers diagnosed within VA, approximately 10,000 cases of prostate cancer, 7,700 cases of lung cancer, and 3,200 cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed each year in Veterans.

“Cancers caught in the early stages do not always require systemic chemotherapy administered in our clinic here on 5 West, i.e. prostates, colon, and lungs can be managed surgically or with radiation,” said Virginia Propst, Nurse Manager, Oncology and Pulmonary Medicine Clinics. “If caught early enough, surgery, radiation, oral medication, and/or hormone therapy are alternative routes of treatment. But prevention is the best course of action.”

Cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in a part of the body. Cancer can result in harmful growths or tumors. It can start anywhere and spread to other parts of the body.

During this month, the VA, along with various organizations and healthcare providers promote education and initiatives related to cancer prevention. They focus on highlighting lifestyle choices and behaviors that can help prevent cancer, such as:

Tobacco Control: Educating about the dangers of tobacco use, including smoking and smokeless tobacco, and encouraging VA cessation programs.

Healthy Diet: Emphasizing the importance of a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, while minimizing processed foods, red meat, and sugary beverages.

Physical Activity: Encouraging regular exercise and an active lifestyle, which can help reduce the risk of several types of cancer. The VA Move! Program can help Veterans increase their physical activity.

Sun Safety: Promoting sun protection measures, such as using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding tanning beds, to prevent skin cancer.

Vaccinations: Raising awareness about vaccines that can prevent certain types of cancer, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for cervical and other cancers.

Regular Screening: Encouraging Veterans to undergo recommended cancer screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and Pap tests, to detect cancer in its early stages when it's most treatable.

Environmental Factors: Educating about potential environmental carcinogens and advocating for policies that reduce exposure to harmful substances.

National Cancer Prevention Month serves as a reminder that many cancers are preventable through healthy lifestyle choices and early detection. It's an opportunity for individuals to assess their own risk factors and make positive changes to reduce their chances of developing cancer.