According to a report recently released by the Texas Department of Health Services, our beautiful city of Houston has unfortunately found itself in the midst of an unexpected health crisis. With several so-called "cancer clusters" found cropping up in various neighborhoods throughout our community, the need for immediate intervention is higher than ever.
An elevated incidence of respiratory cancers, such as throat and esophageal cancer, seems to be prevalent within these cancer clusters. Children also tragically seem to be disproportionately impacted, developing leukemia at a rate five times greater than the state average. And while the exact cause of this cancer cluster is still largely speculative, evidence suggests that the nearby creosote contamination may be to blame.
Safeguarding Yourself Against Cancer
There is no one, singular thing that can predispose you to develop cancer. Generally, a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors tends to compound your risk, increasing your likelihood of getting cancer in your lifetime. It's important to strive to do everything you can to reduce that risk -- such as eating right, avoiding smoking, and exercising -- to help mitigate your risk of getting cancer.
What Are the Most Common Types of Cancer in Texas?
While we Texans are not particularly immune to any specific type of cancer, there are some types that are more common in our state. These include:
- Breast Cancer: Texas saw nearly 18,000 cases of breast cancer, in both men and women, in 2019.
- Lung Cancer: Lung cancer claims the lives of over 11,000 Texans each year.
- Prostate Cancer: There are 14,000 new cases of prostate cancer annually, and over 2,000 men will succumb to it.
- Colon Cancer: Nearly 3,000 of our men and women will die from colon cancer this year.
- Kidney Cancer: Kidney cancer accounts for over 7,000 cases and 1,200 deaths here in Texas.
Prevention and Awareness of Cancer
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself from developing cancer. By being mindful of the more common signs and symptoms of it, you can remain on high alert to help improve your prognosis in the event of a diagnosis. Take, for instance, breast cancer. Research indicates that heavy drinking can elevate your risk of getting breast cancer, but a more moderate approach (one or fewer drinks per day) can help offset it.
One common theme in avoiding all types of cancer is to not smoke or use tobacco products. Quitting smoking can help prevent up to 90% of cases of lung cancer. For men, avoiding alcoholic beverages and smoking can also help prevent prostate cancer. To help minimize your risk of colon cancer, it's important to take a hard look at your diet and exercise habits, as a healthy diet and exercise regimen can help prevent it. And of course, avoiding smoking can also help protect you against kidney cancer.
Knowing how to recognize the early signs of cancer can also be lifesaving. Breast cancer may manifest as a lump in your breast or bloody discharge from your nipple. Chest pain, weight loss, and coughing (with or without blood) can indicate lung cancer. As it is often asymptomatic, prostate cancer can be caught through regular self-checks. If you notice changes in your bowel movements or stomach pain, it can point to colon cancer. And finally, blood in your urine or pain in your lower back may suggest kidney cancer.
What are Your Treatment Options for Cancer?
While we may be at an elevated risk of cancer, we also are very lucky to live in a state that takes this disease seriously. Texas happens to be the home of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the largest cancer treatment center in the nation. Furthermore, cancer treatments have come a long way in the past few years, and it's no longer the automatic death sentence it used to be. Early detection is the key to a higher survival rate.
In addition, five-year survival rates are dramatically improving, and there are a number of treatment options available to those who do receive a cancer diagnosis. These can include chemo or radiation therapy, surgery, immunotherapy, and even biomagnetic therapy. For some patients, though, a multi-faceted approach may be ideal. Ultimately, by remaining mindful of your own unique risk of developing cancer -- and by taking the necessary steps to avoid it -- you can help ensure that you live a long and healthy life here in Houston.