October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a promoted tweet encouraged me to assess my risk of breast and ovarian cancer, using the Cancer Care Ontario My Cancer IQ website. I don’t live in Ontario, but i decided to take the quizzes anyways.
As a generally healthy woman in my mid-twenties, I was not deemed at significant risk for any of the cancers assessed by this website. However, doing the entire series of quizzes probably took me only about ten minutes, and included risk assessments for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma. The results then gave me practical steps to continue to keep my cancer risk low, and pointed out areas I could improve—such as eating more whole grains and exercising a bit more, but also gave me props for things like not smoking and being a vegetarian.
Have You Assessed Your Risk?
There are many of these risk checkers available for cancer. OncoLink’s What’s My Risk survey is another great tool that provides actionable information to help reduce your cancer risk. If you do take one of these quizzes and your risk is high, speak with a doctor about how you can reduce your risk of cancer, and if you need to begin screening tests earlier. For instance, for people with family histories of cancer, especially in a first-degree relative (such as parents or siblings), extra screenings may be done at a certain age, or immediately, to determine risk for the same or related cancers. If you have a family history of cancer, like I do in my extended family, OncoLink’s survey takes a closer look at your risk taking genetic predisposition into account as well.
Why Risk Checking Matters
Checking your risk for cancer is not meant to scare you, it’s meant to empower you! If you have been slipping in receiving regular medical care or cancer screenings, this can be a good opportunity to make an appointment. It can also be a good time to make those little adjustments like getting more active, or cutting back on eating red meat, or adding in more whole grains to your diet. Risk checks can make you more aware of what you need to do—and maybe give you incentive to do it! And remember, exercise and diet don’t just matter if you happen to be at higher risk of developing cancer—they matter for everyone!
Printing the results from these screening tools can make a conversation with your doctor easier. Print off the results to target a conversation with your doctor at your next visit.
If you have had cancer in the past, you may be at greater risk for a recurrence of your cancer, or developing a different kind of cancer. Wearing a medical ID bracelet identifying that you have had cancer, or if you are currently on maintenance chemotherapy or other treatments, can help. As well, if you have Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, HIV/AIDS, or many other conditions, you may be at greater risk for cancer. Identify these diseases on a Medical ID bracelet or necklace!