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Reflecting on National Cancer Prevention Month as a cancer survivor

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National Cancer Prevention Month

February marks National Cancer Prevention Month, first observed in 2014. This annual observance is dedicated to educating the public about the significance of preventing cancer and the power of early detection. With the American Cancer Society estimating around 1.8 million new cancer cases in the United States in 2024 alone, the urgency for awareness and education has never been more critical. Notably, research suggests that 30- 50% of cancer cases and deaths could be preventable through healthy lifestyle choices and early detection measures.

As a breast cancer survivor, the idea of National Cancer Prevention Month evokes a complex mixture of feelings within me. The term “prevention” particularly strikes a chord, hinting at a notion of fault or wrongdoing that led to my diagnosis. It makes me wonder—did I somehow contribute to my cancer? This insinuation of blame is a burden many survivors grapple with, a silent but persistent questioning of our past choices.

However, with time and reflection, I’ve come to understand the broader message behind this observance. Yes, the word “prevention” might not perfectly encapsulate the unpredictable nature of cancer, but the underlying science cannot be ignored. Lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol consumption, and physical activity play undeniable roles in influencing our cancer risk. These are not mere opinions but facts supported by extensive research.

That said, the distinction between “risk reduction” and “prevention” is crucial. Adopting a healthier lifestyle can indeed lower the risk of developing cancer, but it doesn’t offer a foolproof shield against the disease. Cancer is indiscriminate, affecting individuals regardless of their lifestyle choices. This distinction is vital, as it acknowledges the effort to reduce risk without placing undue blame on those diagnosed.

As we navigate through National Cancer Prevention Month, let’s shift our focus towards “risk reduction.” This approach fosters a more inclusive and compassionate conversation about cancer. It highlights actionable steps we can take to potentially lower our cancer risk—like eating a balanced diet, moderating alcohol intake, and engaging in regular physical activity—without implying that those who receive a diagnosis are at fault.

In writing about this month, my aim is to bridge the gap between the scientific evidence and the language we use to discuss cancer. While “prevention” might not be the perfect term, the intent behind the observance is clear: to empower and educate. By advocating for risk reduction and early detection, we can make strides toward a future where fewer people face the reality of a cancer diagnosis.

National Cancer Prevention Month serves as a reminder of the ongoing fight against cancer and the importance of informed choices. As a survivor, I hope my reflections contribute to a broader dialogue—one that embraces science, encourages proactive health measures, and upholds compassion for all affected by cancer. Let’s use this month to spread awareness, support one another, and work collectively towards reducing the impact of cancer on our lives and our communities.

 

Take control of your cancer experience and join a community that truly understands. Download the Outcomes4Me app to stay informed with the latest research and connect with others who truly comprehend your experience as a cancer patient. Empower yourself with knowledge and find solace in the shared stories and support of those walking a similar path. Your story is unique, but you don’t have to navigate it alone.

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