By Dr Tomlin Paul
"Okay, please take off your jacket, belt and shoes. Make sure your pockets are empty. Not even a piece of paper!" shouts the woman in dark-blue uniform. Doing what I am told, I now enter into a small grey chamber holding my arms in a triangle above my head. I hear a swishing sound and I am told to exit after a few seconds.
Now with arms outstretched, a man with light blue rubber gloves frisks me from head to toe. Before I could be released, my computer bag is swabbed and checked in another machine. Walking briskly now to Gate 37 to board American Airlines Flight 1049 back to Kingston, I reflect on the efforts of the Transportation Security Administration in preventing terrorist attacks. What of our efforts to prevent attacks on our body by the big C!?
Real and credible threats
Terrorism is a word which brings forth negative feelings of intrusion and destruction. What cancer can do to you physically, mentally and socially fits the terrorism bill. Hopefully, you have not had personal experience. But over the age of 50, potential attacks do increase. Terrorists deliberately targeted the New York City twin towers in 2001. In like manner, cancer targets the colon or large intestine, the breasts, the prostate, and also the cervix and lungs. These are real and credible threats over the age of 50!
And as much as a part of you would prefer to ignore them or hope and pray for the best, you should have your 'homeland security' in place. A key strategy is to detect what is being planned as early as possible and to do something to either stop the attack or minimise the impact. So in addition to all elements of a healthy lifestyle, you must take advantage of early cancer-detection systems which are already in use.
Get a mammogram. This is an X-ray picture used to detect breast cancer in women at a time when you have no symptoms or not even the doctor can feel anything.
You can have a colonoscopy or a look inside your large intestine using a special tube with a small camera or do a CT scan (X-ray) of the colon. If not, as a minimum, test your stool every year for hidden blood. Doing the colonoscopy with the special tube has the advantage of giving the doctor the chance to remove and test early changes of the bowel.
Your doctor can feel the condition of the prostate by putting a lubricated gloved finger into your rectum. The test is uncomfortable but takes less than a minute. In addition to this, a blood test called the PSA has to be done.
And ladies, do not forget your annual Pap smear.
These checks have the potential to reduce the impact of cancer and help you to living better and longer after 30. So as you make reservations on Life Airlines Flight 50AO, let your doctor be your travel adviser and put in place a special anti-terrorist plan for you.
Dr Tomlin Paul is a family physician at Health Plus Associates in Kingston; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.