Preventive Oncology: A step towards reducing the risk of developing cancer
Cancer is a disease that can be avoided in many ways. According to estimates, approximately half of all cancer cases are caused by modifiable risk factors and can be detected with metastatic potential prior to disease development.
Preventive Oncology is a subspecialty of oncology that focuses on key measures that can either prevent the development of cancer or delay the progression of the malignant process. Cancer prevention measures can be implemented on three levels:
Primary Cancer Prevention: The primary goal of cancer prevention is to identify cancer-causing factors and reduce the risk of cancer formation. This is accomplished through the cessation of alcohol and tobacco use, the management of obesity, vaccination, the practice of a healthy lifestyle, and so on.
Secondary Cancer Prevention: One of the most important secondary cancer prevention measures is screening. Secondary cancer prevention entails detecting cancer before symptoms appear, allowing cancer to be successfully treated.
Tertiary Cancer Prevention: Tertiary cancer prevention focuses on preventing complications such as secondary malignancies after the disease has become symptomatic.
Scope of Preventive Services
The only way to defeat cancer is through prevention and early detection. Preventive oncology refers to actions that can be taken to prevent the development or progression of cancer. A healthy way of life is the key to cancer prevention. Following are some of the ways to prevent cancer or reduce the risk of developing cancer
- Awareness Programs
- Screening Camps
- Cancer Screening
- General Health Packages
- Tobacco cessation counseling
Did you know that cancer is a lifestyle disease that can be avoided by leading a healthier and more active lifestyle?
What is Chemoprevention?
Chemoprevention is the use of a medication, vitamin, or supplement to prevent cancer. This is usually reserved for people who are at high risk of developing cancer. They could have a strong family history, an abnormal gene, or a personal health history that increases their risk.
A good or ideal chemoprevention agent does not have side effects that affect the quality of life, does not cost a lot of money, is easily accessible, and is good at preventing cancer.
Chemoprevention in Various Cancers
Chemoprevention trials in breast cancer have set the standard for other cancer types to follow. Tamoxifen and Raloxifene are selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERM) medications that help prevent breast cancer by interfering with oestrogen, a female hormone that promotes breast cancer growth. Both of these medications have been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer in high-risk women by up to 50%.
Chemoprevention is also being researched for other types of cancer, including head and neck, lung, and skin cancer. Only large, multi-year clinical trials can determine whether a compound reduces the risk of cancer. And, as with any chemopreventive agent, patients and their healthcare providers must discuss the risks and benefits.
Cervical cancer is the tenth most common cancer and the third most deadly cancer after breast and colorectal cancer. Tobacco and alcohol use, a history of genital warts, unprotected sex, low socioeconomic status, and a low educational level are all risk factors. Cervical cancer incidence and mortality can be reduced with high-quality cervical screening.
Vaccines to Prevent Cancer
Vaccines may aid in the prevention of cancers caused by antiviral infection. Human papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) vaccines are currently available. However, these vaccines must be administered prior to becoming infected with the viruses.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination: The HPV vaccine protects against cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, and anal cancers, as well as oropharyngeal cancer. HPV vaccines are recommended for people aged 9 to 26. The HPV vaccine is not a replacement for regular cervical cancer screening; all women, including those who have been vaccinated, should have regular cervical cancer screenings.
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) vaccination: HBV causes Hepatitis B, which can lead to liver cancer if left untreated. HBV vaccines are available for people of all ages.
Can a healthy lifestyle prevent cancer?
According to many studies, cancer is a lifestyle disease that can be avoided by leading a healthier and more active lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and chronic stress can all contribute to tumour formation, sometimes exacerbating tumour growth in patients with stage 1 and stage 2 cancers. HCG’s lifestyle modification counselling sessions emphasise the importance of leading an active lifestyle, eating a healthy diet, and developing effective stress management strategies.
FAQs about Preventive Oncology
Is cancer curable if detected early?
Early detection of cancer entails catching cancers before they cause symptoms or when they cause early symptoms. Regular screening is extremely beneficial in detecting cancers in their early stages, increasing survival rates, and reducing complications.
Can cancer go undetected for years?
A few cancers go undetected for more than ten years, with lung cancers, ovarian cancers, colorectal cancers, and cervical cancers frequently diagnosed in advanced stages. Preventive measures such as screening, vaccinations, lifestyle changes, and so on are a few ways to reduce the risk of developing cancer.
Can a full-body MRI detect cancer?
Whole-body MRIs can detect cancer even before symptoms appear. Early detection of cancer has an impact on treatment plans, so regular screening is essential.
What kinds of food increase the cancer risk?
Highly processed foods, such as packaged snacks, sugary cereals, deep-fried foods, fizzy drinks, and so on, may increase cancer risk because they contain high amounts of fat, salt, and sugar and add no nutritional value to the diet.
Thanks to extensive research conducted in recent years, cancer development and the factors that contribute to cancer formation have been clearly defined. The research findings have paved the way for the development of several new cancer prevention strategies.
- RGCIRC: https://www.rgcirc.org/specialties/preventive-oncology-department/
- Oncolink: https://www.oncolink.org/risk-and-prevention/prevention-screening/what-is-chemoprevention
- NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4718348/#:~:text=Prevention%20programs%20are%20an%20important,burden%20of%20these%20common%20tumors.
- HCG Oncology: https://www.hcgoncology.com/oncology-services/preventive-oncology/#:~:text=Preventive%20Oncology%20is%20a%20special,progression%20of%20the%20malignant%20process.
About Author –
Dr. L. Rohit Reddy, Consultant Medical Oncologist & Hemato Oncologist , Yashoda Hospital, Hyderabad
MD, DM, ECMO, FAGE