- Controlling Cancer
- Early Detection
- Palliative Care
- Can You Get Life Insurance?
- No Obligation Quote
How Much Control Do We Have Over Cancer?
According to a recent report from the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), almost one in two Canadians will receive a diagnosis of cancer in their lifetime. When it comes to cancer, a person’s “lifetime risk” is the likelihood that they will be diagnosed with cancer at least once during their lifetime. Canadian men face a lifetime risk of 49 percent, while Canadian women face a lifetime risk of 45 percent. Cancer will be the cause of death for about one in four Canadians.
Why are so many Canadians at risk? In part because Canadians are living longer in general, and age is a major risk factor for cancer. The nation is also growing, and this is causing the numbers to rise. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths.*
Not all cancers are the same
Survival rates for cancers across the board have improved; today, 60 percent of Canadians survive their cancer diagnoses, compared with a survival rate of about 25 percent in the 1940s. But not all cancers offer patients the same outlook. Testicular and thyroid cancers have a survival rate of better than 90 percent, whereas pancreatic cancer, the third-leading cause of cancer death in Canada, has only an eight percent survival rate.
What really sets different types of cancer apart, though, is the risk factors and prevention strategies that work to fight them.
Controlling cancer: A four-component strategy
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are four basic components of cancer control: prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and palliative care. With careful attention to each of these areas many cancers can be avoided, and many of those that can’t be avoided can be cured. In all cases, we are now better able to manage cancer, providing palliative care to limit suffering.
*Source: Canadian Cancer Society
We now have the information and in some cases the technologies to prevent at least 40 percent of cancers. Experts believe that a combination of improved screening and lifestyle changes would prevent 40 to 50 percent of cancer cases. Actions like getting more exercise, quitting smoking, practicing sun safety, and improving one’s diet may seem so simple, but they are in fact critical to cancer prevention.
There are more new cases of breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer every year than any other kind, and they are also often linked to lifestyle choices. Lung cancer in particular fits this description. It leads that list as the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada, responsible for 14 percent of all diagnoses and the most cancer deaths in the nation. In the case of lung cancer, tobacco use causes more than 85 percent of diagnoses.
Colorectal and breast cancers are Canada’s second and third most common cancers. Both are strongly linked to lifestyle choices—which means that there is a great possibility that we can prevent them far more than we currently do. Eating a variety of whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits ensures you get enough fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants for a nutritious diet. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly are also very important lifestyle factors for preventing both breast and colorectal cancer. Quitting smoking and either ceasing or limiting alcohol intake are the final lifestyle piece of this puzzle.
The highest potential for a cure comes with early detection; interventions that allow for early detection and effective treatment exist for about one-third of cancers. There are two basic early detection strategies that WHO recommends: early diagnosis (which requires informed, proactive patients) and screening.
Knowing what’s normal for you and your body is one of the key weapons in the fight against cancer, because understanding what your “normal” looks and feels like makes early diagnosis more probable. It is easier to detect diseases, including some cancers, by knowing what feels normal and being very aware of your body, and any new developments.
Cancer that is detected early is often easier to treat. When you see changes in your body or start to feel different, don’t ignore that. Tell your doctor about these signs and symptoms, because the sooner you do, the sooner you can collaborate with them to solve the problem.
Regular checkups are critical to good health in general, and notably important for cancer prevention and early detection specifically. That’s because doctors and other healthcare professionals are experienced and trained to detect even very subtle early warning signs for cancer. Regardless of when your last checkup took place, if you see any of these kinds of changes, report them to your doctor immediately:
- new or strange swelling or lumps in the breast, testicles, or other body parts
- changes in the size, shape, or colour of a wart or mole
- sores or “scabs” that don’t heal
- difficulty swallowing
- a persistent cough
- a lasting hoarse voice
- unusual discharge or bleeding of any kind from the vagina or nipples
- blood in the phlegm, stool, or urine
- any lasting changes (more than a few weeks) in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation)
- changes in bladder habits, such as difficulty, extreme urgency, or pain
- unexplained fatigue, fever, or weight loss
- persistent indigestion
- unexplained aches and pains
- any new skin growths or areas of skin that itch, turn red, or bleed
Having these signs and symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Some other medical issue can cause the same symptoms, or they could be caused by some passing issue that isn’t serious. But since your doctor is the only one who can be sure, report them.
Screening for colorectal cancer should start at age 50 for those with normal levels of risk, and there are multiple options available that your doctor can tell you about. If you’ve got a family history of colon cancer or have otherwise been identified as being at higher risk, you’ll probably need to be screened earlier and more often. Some doctors also prescribe medications for very high-risk patients.
Breast cancer screenings are absolutely essential to early detection, which in turn affects survival rates. Self-exams are important, and anyone can get into the habit of doing breast self-exams at home. Starting at age 40, women at normal risk should get mammograms to screen for breast cancer, and in some areas where available, 3D mammography might be offered in some cases.
Women at high risk for breast cancer should consult with their doctor about when to screen, how often, and what kind of screening will be most effective. Since the advent of genetic testing, in particular for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations which cause breast cancer, many women have been seeking out genetic screening. For women with family histories of breast or ovarian cancers, testing might be covered by the government.
Never before in history has cancer treatment been so effective. There are a range of treatment options for many cancers, and new treatments are frequently in development.
Many cancers are surgically removed. This is particularly useful when cancer is detected early enough to be isolated in a single spot.
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by either damaging their DNA so they can’t reproduce, or by creating charged particles called free radicals inside cancer cells that damage their DNA, with the same end goal in mind. Radiation is carefully targeted so that it doesn’t damage other, healthy cells.
Chemotherapy really refers to the use of any number of drugs to treat a range of diseases, but in the context of cancer it simply means using drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. This is a useful counterpart to radiation and surgery, which either kill, remove, or damage cancer cells, but only in certain areas. Chemotherapy can work throughout the body to kill cancer cells, even those that have spread or metastasized to other parts of the body.
The downside to chemotherapy is that because it is such a powerful killer of cells throughout the body, it typically makes the patient feel sick and weak. That’s because in its current form, it kills healthy cells, too. Since the priority is getting rid of the cancer, killing some healthy cells has been considered an acceptable loss until recently. Now, researchers are working to use nanotechnologies to deliver chemotherapy drugs to target cancer cells in a tailored way and leave healthy cells alone.
New treatment technologies
There are a host of new cancer treatment technologies on the horizon. Various kinds of gene therapies are one example; these treatments add new, healthy genes to the cells of a patient to replace genes malfunctioning due to cancer. Researchers are now also working to alter the immune system of patients to sensitize them to cancer cells using the patient’s own bone marrow or other material. This way, the immune system, on heightened alert, immediately detects and kills cancer cells before they have a chance to spread.
Cancer vaccines are a next generation form of gene therapy, that are about to come to prominence. Although current vaccines have only worked well enough to be considered complementary therapies for use after chemotherapy or surgery to eliminate remaining cancer cells, this is changing quickly. Other gene therapy cancer vaccines are undergoing clinical trials.
Palliative care refers to any treatment that focuses on improving quality of life, reducing symptoms, and providing support to patients and their loved ones. This kind of care comes into play when a person’s cancer is terminal, or when it is treatable but not curable. Regardless of the cancer being terminal or incurable one can ask for, and receive palliative care.
For people who are at higher risk for cancer, creating a palliative care plan, together with loved ones and healthcare providers, is a smart idea. Knowing where you stand as to pain management and other palliative treatments before it’s time to make decisions is important, and saves stress at a difficult time if you ever need to face those choices.
The bottom line
At first glance, the rate of cancers among Canadians might seem overwhelming. How can cancer rates be so high in this day and age? Yet in the context of an aging, changing population, it is understandable. Actively engaging in a four-component cancer strategy that includes prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and palliative care is the best way we can improve our odds and bring these numbers down over time.
We are not totally in control of cancer. But we have more control now over our cancer outcomes than ever before. We should do everything within our power to live better, fuller lives.
We hope the information provided here has been useful. If you have questions about cancer, seek out the advice of a healthcare provider.
If you have questions about getting life insurance, know that there are options. You can be provided with coverage regardless of health conditions, such as cancer.
Can You Get Life Insurance if you have been diagnosed with or have had Cancer?
Finding out that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer is not easy. There are many challenges to navigate and overcome like the pain and discomfort cancer brings and being unable to participate in the activities you enjoy. You may also experience difficulty being approved for life insurance or finding a policy at an affordable rate due to your illness. Thankfully, there are options out there that will give you the peace of mind you deserve.
WHY SHOULD YOU CONSIDER NO MEDICAL AND SIMPLIFIED ISSUE LIFE INSURANCE?
- You’re a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or have a valid work or study permit
- You have health issues
- You’re hard to insure due to your health condition
- You have a dangerous job or participate in high risk sports
- Fear of needles or dislike of medical exams
- Your time is valuable, and you simply want the process to be fast
You can be covered regardless of health conditions, such as cancer. No Medical life insurance can be an excellent solution for your needs.