Self-Care for Cancer Prevention
If you search for how to lower your chances of getting cancer you will find plenty of information or advice. Sometimes though, you might find that information from one study contradicts the information from another study. One strategy that is widely accepted is that lifestyle choices, or self-care, affects the chances of getting cancer. What is self-care?
Self-care has been defined many ways by different authorities over the years with the most recent definition by the World Health Organization (WHO) stating: “Self-Care is the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.”
To provide practical implementation of the WHO’s definition the International Self-Care Foundation has provided a framework around seven “pillars” or “domains” for self-care:
- Health literacy
- Mental well-being
- Physical activity
- Healthy eating
- Risk avoidance or mitigation
- Good hygiene
- Rational and responsible use of products, services, diagnostics, and medicines
Focusing on these seven pillars of self-care may help prevent cancer. Let’s dig a little deeper into each one.
Health literacy refers to understanding information given to you by a health care professional, finding and using your own sources of health information, and understanding when information is poor or misleading to gain a better understanding of our disease and what we can do to treat it.
Mental well-being encompasses many different things, but generally is being self-aware of your feelings and attitudes, having a purpose in life, optimism, and a sense of belonging and being supported.
Physical activity includes walking, cycling, golf, tennis, and many other activities that significantly improve your health, fitness, and mood. It helps to control body weight and reduces the risk of metabolic illnesses.
Maintaining a healthy diet has been repeatedly shown to help reduce the risk of cancer. Things to consider are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all, and limiting processed meats.
Risk avoidance refers to the reduction of behaviors that directly increase the risk of disease, such as not smoking, protecting yourself from the sun, getting vaccinated and practicing safe sex. Behaviors that reduce health risks are usually the most achievable self-care practices.
Good hygiene practices help to maintain health and prevent the spread of diseases and infection. Hand washing is probably the most important and simple thing to do. Think if it as a do-it-yourself “vaccine.” Proper food preparation and regular oral healthcare are other simple ways to practice good hygiene.
Rational and responsible use of health products and services by individuals means proper use of prescription medication, natural health products, and getting regular medical care. Doing regular self-exams is a self-service you can do as a screening for cancers of the skin, colon, cervix, prostate, and breast to raise your chances of finding cancer early.
Through self-care you can be healthier and manage minor ailments yourself. Self-care allows you to better manage, delay, or even prevent the appearance of lifestyle diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and many cancers.
International Self-Care Day on July 24 symbolizes the benefits of self-care experienced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To celebrate in Rochester, MN the Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center will feature information about self-care through the entire month of July and on July 24 we will have a little treat for you if you are able to stop in.