Cancer Advocate Paula Zahn shares the steps she takes to avoid cancer, having such a prevalent family history of this disease.
I am so disciplined about having my check-ups. I have had three generations of my family wiped out by cancer. My grandmother on my father’s side died from cancer. My grandmother on my mother’s side died from cancer. I lost my father to cancer. My mother, God bless her, and I am proud to say, is a two-time breast cancer survivor. She survived two separate battles, two different types of breast cancers 13 years apart, and she is stronger than ever, enjoying a very full life with her six grandchildren and four children. But I guess when you have so much cancer in your family, it scared me into action, and so in my calendar every year I know when I am going to have my annual physical. I know when I am going to have my mammogram. I know when I am going to have my breast MRI. I know when I am going to have an ovarian ultrasound, and I am very disciplined about scheduling these things and try to doing them at the same time every year, so it’s almost like going back to school.
And in addition to that, I have always been an athlete and have had to watch very carefully what goes into my body, having been a competitive swimmer and a runner and a tennis player and all that other stuff, and now in adulthood, as a mother of three children, I am very aware of what goes into their bodies as well.
So do I have the amount of fruit and vegetables the government recommends? I am pretty close to it on any given day. But again, when we look at the huge healthcare crisis that this country confronts, it seems crazy to me that we as a nation aren’t talking more forcefully about prevention. You talk to any oncologist, whether it’s at Sloan-Kettering or MD Anderson or the NCI and they said, “Look, we can prevent a majority of cancers just with simple lifestyle changes. Don’t drink excessively. Don’t smoke. Eat healthily. Exercise.”
We know how much impact exercise can have on individual cases of cancer, and we know what happens when the diet gets larded up with fat. The stuff is pretty obvious, and yet it’s not a message that has gained much popularity, but it’s a simple one. And when I think of what our country could save when it comes to healthcare costs, it drives me nuts that we haven’t done a better job of getting these simple, clear messages out to the public, and maybe even some doctors tell me that we just don’t want to hear them. Sometimes that we in our lives don’t want to be as disciplined as we should be. Well, that’s a personal choice, but we got to make sure the information gets out for people to make that choice.
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