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A Message from Dr. Stephen Kindred -
Assistant Vice President, Corporate Medical
By United States Presidential proclamation, April is National Cancer Control Month. Through building awareness at a national level and taking control, we are experiencing progress in our fight against cancer! According to the National Cancer Institute, death rates for the four most common cancers (prostate, breast, lung, and colorectal) continue to decline. In addition, the rate of cancer occurrence has decreased since the early 2000s.
This success is largely due to cancer control efforts across our nation. These include:
- Increasing access to quality cancer care
- Improving the quality of life for cancer survivors
- Encouraging healthy lifestyles
- Promoting cancer screening
Some types of cancer can be found before they cause symptoms. Checking for cancer in people who are asymptomatic is called screening. Through cancer screening, physicians are sometimes able to find and treat some types of cancer, if caught early. Usually, cancer treatment is more effective and produces fewer side effects when the cancer is detected early.
Roberta, Systems Analyst at Corporate South, recognizes the benefits of early detection and preventive screening. Her grandmother died of uterine cancer at the young age of 32 and her mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was in her late forties. “When my mother was 51, she also developed breast cancer that wasn’t discovered until it had spread to other areas,” says Roberta. “In fact, her breast cancer ended up creating a tumor that was pressing against her spinal column and left her a paraplegic for the last two years of her life.” Roberta’s mother died at the age of 53.
“I have been very diligent about having pap smears and I started mammograms younger than most women,” adds Roberta. “In 2007, at age 48, my regular mammogram discovered a 1.5 cm mass in my right breast. An open surgical biopsy confirmed that it was cancer. There was also DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) in the sample, which is like ‘precancer.’ I elected to have a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I was very fortunate with having my cancer detected early and with the type of breast cancer I had.”
Because her cancer was estrogen receptor positive, she could be treated with tamoxifen, a drug that prevents estrogen from promoting cancer cell growth. Unfortunately, this drug has the opposite effect in the endometrium (uterine lining) than it does in the breast. In a few women, it causes endometrial or uterine cancer. “In 2008, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer,” says Roberta. “Again, early detection techniques saved the day and I ended up only having surgery to resolve the problem.”
Roberta’s mom raised her without a grandma and she did the same for her daughters. “A key motivator for me is that I am determined that my daughters will not have that experience,” says Roberta. “I am now 53 and have outlived both my grandmother and my mother. I am planning to be around when my oldest granddaughter becomes a grandma herself! I tell folks, ‘Don’t be afraid of screenings and definitely don’t be afraid of cancer.’ I now know that not only can it be survived, early detection increases the chances of overcoming it,” adds Roberta.
Early detection and cancer prevention are central to the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) mission. The ACS offers these tips to help reduce your risk of cancer:
- Stay away from tobacco
- Stay at a healthy weight
- Get moving with regular physical activity
- Eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Limit alcohol intake
- Protect your skin from harmful UV rays
- Know yourself, your family history and your risks
- Have regular check-ups and cancer screening tests
If you’re enrolled in State Farm’s Group Medical PPO plan, remember to take advantage of the coverage offerings for preventive cancer screenings for breast, colorectal, cervical and prostate cancer. Remember to also visit with your primary care provider to determine when specific screenings are appropriate for you.
Take control and show cancer who is boss! Empowering you to Live Well, Be Well.
Learn more about cancer prevention by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Use this tool to create customized health screening guidelines as recommended by Mayo Clinic and share them with your doctor.
Concerned about your cancer risk? Take the WebMD Cancer Risk Health Check.
Need support? Consider joining a support group within your community.