Do something about it

Do something about it

The fifth day of Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) was also World Cancer Day.

It seems a good time to take stock of our health. Especially now that we’ve been let loose from the dominion of uncontrolled pineapple tart scoffing and have been set free from unrestricted access to yu sheng, under the auspices of generating bounteousness and plenitude with the humble shredded carrot, cucumber, radish, yam, pomelo, plum sauce and ginger.

A recent article in the Guardian reported cancer rates for women in the UK to be linked to a lack of exercise. And although local cancer rates differ from those in other countries, the most frequent cancers in the local population – colorectal and breast for men and women respectively (refer to this report for facts and figures) – are associated with low intake of fruits and vegetables and sedentary low-exercise lifestyles (see this fact sheet on colorectal cancer and this fact sheet on breast cancer from the National Registry of Diseases Singapore).

Even for cancers which are less frequently occurring, such as non-small cell lung cancer (details in a Mind Your Body article, 4 Nov 2010), targeted treatments are improving rates of recovery as well as remission. Even advanced lung cancer patients are living longer locally because of targeted treatments (CNA, 30 Nov 2013). Immune therapies which shrink the tumour are also being made available thanks to the advancement of research in this area. And new breakthroughs happen on a regular basis: “Sticky balls may stop cancer spreading” (BBC News, 9 Jan 2014).

Cancer research receives a colossal amount of funding worldwide (see this blog entry about cancer funding from the NY Times), but it’s not really going anywhere unless we do something about the things that we do know. And we know that exercise and fruit-vegetables have something to do with the most common cancers.

Dealing with the emotions of having a diagnosis and receiving treatment, as well as caring and supporting a family member or friend who is coping with an illness, are also sources of stress. It’s important to take steps which can help one adjust to the illness: the National Cancer Centre of Singapore (NCCS) provides a comprehensive approach; practical tips are at the US National Cancer Institute and Mayo Clinic, while advice on how to help a friend can be found here at the APA website and this NIH website.

It’s a good time to start a new habit. More so if you made 1 Jan 2014 resolution to exercise more and eat more fruits and vegetables. Here’s a chance to reboot that resolution and make it last the whole horse year.