Experts share tips to prevent cancer

February 4 is internationally recognized as World Cancer Day. On this day, we remember those whose lives were taken by the disease, those who survived, and those who continue to fight the “Big C.”   

We also salute healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, therapists, dietitians, and caregivers who work hard to alleviate the suffering of cancer patients. Together, we are all cancer warriors fighting to make our homes and communities cancer-free.

Have you ever wondered how our health workers protect themselves from this dreaded disease? Here’s what some of them have to say:

Gerard Wong – Senior Dietitian, Allied Health Parkway Cancer Centre

Cancer is a complex disease that affects different people differently. There are claims that one type of food or fruit has the power to cure or prevent cancer entirely, but these are oversimplifications that are not supported by evidence.

A well-balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are still the main keys to reducing the risk of getting cancer. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Limit your intake of fried foods and switch to stir-fry dishes or soups.
  • Don’t stock up on instant noodles, potato chips, or sugary drinks.
  •  Try to sit less and stand more, Take the stairs instead of elevators and take walks during breaks.
  • Limit your intake of processed meats and foods. If you don’t recognize what animal or part of the animal it came from, avoid it.
  • During the holiday season or at parties, pick only two or three choices and limit your portions.Have a glass of water before you dive into the buffet!

There is no safe level of alcohol intake, so drink in moderation.

Jaime YeoCounsellor, Allied Health Parkway Cancer Centre

Work can be both physically and emotionally stressful. During stressful times, my body may respond with symptoms such as headaches and sore muscles, or I may feel sickly.

Although stress does not directly contribute to cancer, our psychological and physical well-being go hand in hand. To manage stress and reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer, I  try to find time to recharge myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That could mean slowing down my pace,  having a nice cup of coffee while reflecting and taking stock of my life. This helps me to refocus my energies on what is important.

Or  I could do something I really enjoy that will recharge me. Sometimes, it means staying away from my phone and enjoying the company of friends or family. I am also learning to practice mindfulness by focusing on the present moment instead of occupying my thoughts with the next task I want to do.

Dr. Colin Phipps Diong – Consultant, Haematology Parkway Cancer Centre

Stay away from known carcinogens (things that increase the risk of cancer). Smoking has been proven to increase the risk of many different cancers,  both for smokers and the people around them. Avoid smoking and you reduce your risk of getting cancer.Consuming large amounts of alcohol can lead to liver failure (cirrhosis) and cancer of the liver.

There is consistent evidence that higher amounts of body fat and higher body mass index are associated with an increased risk of developing certain cancers. Regular exercise and consumption of fatty foods in moderation will help.

Htet Htet Aung, Staff Nurse – Parkway Cancer Centre

As an oncology nurse, I witness the fighting spirit of our patients every day. Being sick with cancer affects not only the patient but his loved ones as well.

What can I do to be a positive influence to my patients and colleagues?

In handling critical cases, I take it as a challenge to prove that I can do my work efficiently and effectively. To keep up my energy, I eat healthy snacks and drink enough water. At end of the day, I am satisfied and I gain self- confidence.

When the situation seems out of control, I ask for help and express my concerns if they are related to patient safety.

For healthcare professionals, teamwork is very important. I strive to make my workplace happy. I may not please everyone but I  make sure I appreciate everybody. A tense workplace will just add stress to everyone – the patients and caregivers.

I always believe in staying positive and being happy.

Think positive and make every day happy. For me, this attitude helps to reduce the risk of cancer.

Dr. Patricia Kho – Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology, Parkway Cancer Centre

Practice what one preaches. Hence, for me and my family, my advice on diet, exercise, mental health, and the immune system to prevent developing cancer are simple ones that can be achieved by working parents with growing children and teens.

Try and maintain a balanced healthy diet with lots of natural food. You can allow the occasional craving for “junk” food but it’s very important for growing kids to have a diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and don’t skip breakfast!

Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical exercise each day. Go for a jog with the kids in the evening and get them off their butts and iPads! Obesity in kids can continue in adulthood and this, in turn, is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers. Another benefit of exercise is the endorphin rush one gets is great for relieving stress.

Have regular cancer screening appropriate for one’s age. For women at 50 without a family history or symptoms, regular mammograms are recommended for breast cancer screening.

For males and females at 40, annual fecal occult blood screening or yearly colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening and PAP smears for cervical cancer screening are recommended.

Have a good night’s sleep – try your best to go to bed early!

For more information about cancer, its causes, and treatments, please visit http://ph.parkwaycancercentre.com/news-articles/health-news/. 

Grab also a copy of HealthNews, a monthly community publication by Parkway Cancer Centre Singapore. In the Philippines, the centre is represented by CanHOPE Manila. It acts as a link with direct access to the Singapore team for logistical and informational purposes, providing integrated care throughout a patient’s journey.

For information on the center and their services, email manila@canhope.org and visit CanHOPE Manila on Facebook.