This is the first blog post of a 3-part series addressing cancer prevention for Veterans.

Cancer prevention starts with healthy living, including eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your overall stress. Cancer prevention can also come in the form of certain vaccinations. It’s equally important to understand your history of environmental exposures so you can understand your individual risk.

But what are things you can do today to reduce your cancer risk?

Lower your overall cancer risk with one lifestyle change

Stopping smoking is one of the best ways to lower your overall cancer risk. One out of every three cancer deaths in the U.S. is related to cigarette smoking.

Cigarette smoking is related to many types of cancer including the following:

  • Lung.
  • Mouth and throat.
  • Pancreas.
  • Bladder.
  • Kidney.
  • Colon and rectum.
  • Cervical.

If you smoke, the risk for lung cancer is 15-30 times higher than a person who has never smoked cigarettes. In fact, one of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer is to stop smoking. After twenty years of stopping smoking, your cervical cancer risk decreases by 50%.

If you need help to stop smoking, every VA medical center offers tobacco cessation counseling and medications. For more information, visit  How to Quit, an online resource to help Veterans stop smoking.

Schedule a cancer screening

Scheduling regular check-ups to make sure cancer screenings take place is one way to catch or prevent cancer. Your provider can answer questions on what screening tests makes sense for you.

Screening tests are used to look for cancer before there are noticeable signs. Regular screenings for cancers can increase your chances of finding cancer early when treatment is most likely to be successful.

If you’re curious about what screening makes sense for you and what you might want to talk to a provider about, visit:

Choosing VA for your cancer care

VA is focused on helping Veterans with cancer live better lives. VA providers work hard to ensure the proper cancer screening takes place, and if necessary, work to find the best treatments for your cancer care needs. All VA providers stand shoulder to shoulder with Veterans and support them on every step of their cancer journey.

For more information, visit cancer.va.gov or email cancer@va.gov.

Cancer prevention during COVID-19

While COVID-19 is an ongoing concern, VA is taking precautions at all VA medical centers to protect you from the virus. Catching cancer early is an important part of successful treatment, so regular appointments and cancer screenings are key for Veterans’ health.

Starting on January 18, 2022, the U.S. government has made at-home COVID-19 testing kits available to every household. To find out more and order your at-home COVID-19 tests, visit https://www.covidtests.gov/.

By Courtney Franchio is a program manager with VA’s National Oncology Program

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Published on Feb. 17, 2022

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