Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cancer Self-Exams

"But when I first got cancer, after the initial shock and the fear and paranoia and crying and all that goes with cancer - that word means to most people ultimate death - I decided to see what I could do to take that negative and use it in a positive way."
-Herbie Mann, Jazz muscian who died at age 73 after a long battle with prostate cancer.
The second highest cause of death in America is Cancer which is often treatable IF detected early. At Stage 1 a cancer is located in just one part of the body. In Stages 2 & 3 it spreads locally and by Stage 4 it has spread throughout the body.

My wife was fortunate to have a cancer discovered by chance in Stage 1 and it was removed with surgery. My mother had the same experience but what happened afterwards made a difference. A year after the surgery the doctor said Mom was "cured" and there were no further follow-ups. Seven years later she felt bumps on her neck and another doctor diagnosed it as stage 4 cancer. The original cancer had come back and spread everywhere. Mom has lived four years with chemo and other agressive treatments but these just slow down a cancer in stage 4; there is no cure. The family gathered last week for her 70th birthday that none expected she would live to see.

In my wife's case she has a excellent doctor who insists on a check-up every six months and she has been cancer free for five years.

Cancer inspection is very imporant and one reason that every adult should have an annual physical. I've seen two Dermitologists for minor items and each made me strip to my shorts as they examined all my skin for signs of cancer. This seems to be standard for a first time visit. The first one didn't like a spot on my back and cut out a dime-sized "biopsy" which turned out to be fine. Skin cancer is something that everyone can and should do self-exams for. See http://www.skincancer.org/Self-Examination/ for details. Also check out http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/skin-cancer-detection/about-skin-self-exams/how-to-examine-your-skin for photos of suspicious "moles."

Look for:
  • A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
  • A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that:
    • changes color
    • increases in size or thickness
    • changes in texture
    • is irregular in outline
    • is bigger than 6mm or 1/4”, the size of a pencil eraser
    • appears after age 21
  • A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed
  • An open sore that does not heal within three weeks
Women are encouraged to do a breast self-exam monthly. Nearly 70% of all breast cancers are found through self-exams and with early detection the 5-year survival rate is 98%.
http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/about-breast-cancer/breast-self-exam.aspx

New to me is the idea of monthly Testicular self-exam:.
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicularcancer/moreinformation/doihavetesticularcancer/do-i-have-testicular-cancer-self-exam

Smokers and tobacco chewers should perform Oral self-exams: http://www.oralcancerselfexam.com/?module=cms&modmethod=view&args=selfexam.  Though the site does point out that regular vistits to a dentist should catch oral cancer.

Bottom Line

Cancer won't be detected early if no one is looking for it.

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