Avoiding infections may prevent you from getting cancer
We hear about the many ways we can get cancer every day. Sometimes it seems as if it doesn’t matter what we eat, where we live, or even the way we sleep. We will get cancer. The good news is there are ways to avoid these infections. Three of the infections associated with cancer are treatable.
The first infection mentioned in the study is Helicobactor Pylori or H. pylori. This bacteria is often picked up in childhood. It is rare to pick it up as an adult. However, symptoms may not be noticeable until the person is an adult. In fact, only fifty percent of those who have H. pylori will develop symptoms. Symptoms include a burning or aching in the stomach, nausea and vomiting, frequent burping, bloating, and weight loss. If there is severe or persistant pain with difficulty swallowing and bloody stools or bloody vomit, then the person needs to seek immediately medical assistance.
H. pylori is spread by direct contact with another person who has the bacteria. Saliva, vomit, and fecal matter are all ways to get the bug. Handwashing is then an important way to avoid this infection. However, there are things that place a person at risk that is out of their control such as living in crowded conditions or in a place without enough hot water. Also, living in a developing country or with someone who has H. pylori puts one at risk for getting it.
Hepatitis B is an infection that attacks the liver. It can be prevented through vaccination. However, it can cause abdominal pain, dark urine, fever, joint pain, nausea and vomiting with loss of appetite and then yellowing of the skin and the white of the eyes, known as jaundice. This warrants a visit to the doctor's office. Prevention again includes washing hands after using the toilet and after changing a diaper.
Hepatitis C, the one infection that is not curable, is another virus that attacks the liver, causing inflammation. It is spread through contact with a person's blood, such as through sharing needles. Avoiding sharing needles is a top priority with preventing infection with Hep C. There is no vaccination to prevent this disease. Most people do not even know they have the infection until it has cause significant damage to the liver.
Of all the cancers that were caused by infectious agents that can be avoided, the only one that was not curable was Hepatitis C. In order for this to be prevented from occurring, education is essential. It must not be assumed that the public in general knows how to avoid this infection, or any of the others either. Helicobactor pylori can be treated with antibiotics, and Hepatitis B and HPV can be prevented with vaccines. There is no vaccine against Hepatitis C. Again, education and action is necessary to prevent the cancers from occurring that are associated with these infections.
HPV is the virus that commonly causes warts of the hands, feet, and face. There are over a hundred different types of this virus. Forty different types of HPV cause genital warts and then may cause cervical cancer. Vaccination against HPV is a way to prevent the infection and subsequent cervical cancer. Pap smears on a regular basis helps doctors to detect any changes associated with early cancer.
One resource for those interested in learning more is the International Agency for Research on Cancer which is part of the World Health Organization. The mission of the agency is to coordinate and conduct research with experts, as well as finding out what causes any kind of cancer while developing strategies to prevent and fight cancer. The American Cancer Society is another resource to turn to. Directed more at helping the public to avoid and prevent infections and various other ways to get cancer, they have various information on understanding cancer, ways to prevent cancer, staying healthy, finding support and treatment, exploring research, and much more.
Lancet Oncology - 9 May 2012
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