Cancer Education: 3 Tips for Staying Healthy

We all view cancer as an awful disease, a disease that is totally out of our control. We may not be doctors, conducting research to find a cure, but we are Relayers, raising money, and doing our part to help.

But we can do more than that. As individuals, we can follow a few simple guidelines to keep ourselves healthy, and at the lowest risk for getting cancer. Some of these tips may seem more obvious than others, but I feel that they are all beneficial. It is important for all of us to remind ourselves of the small steps we can take each day to keep ourselves healthy.

1.  Sun Protection!

  • Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, and there is so much we can do to keep our body safe from the sun. We all love a good beach day, but your long-term health is much more important than getting as tan. USE SUNSCREEN! Remember to reapply frequently, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. However, ultraviolet radiation doesn’t just come from the sun. It comes from tanning beds as well, so it is your best option to avoid using them. Studies have indicated that too much sun exposure is strongly linked to basal and squamous cell skin cancer and melanoma. Make sure to self-examine your skin regularly, and consult a doctor if you find something concerning. If you have a mole, keep the ABCDE rule in mind: A is for asymmetry, B is for border, C is for color, D is for diameter, and E is for evolving.

2. Maintain a healthy diet, and exercise often!

  • Staying active and eating healthy can make a big difference in lowering your risk for cancer, in addition to many other diseases. Being overweight can increase cancer risk because excess weight leads to increased estrogen and insulin production, which are hormones that can cause cancer growth. As far as a diet, you should strive to eat at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits each day, choose whole grains rather than refined grain products, and avoid eating too much red meat and processed meat.

3. Visit your doctor on a regular basis for screenings!

  • Many people may be nervous to visit the doctor to get a test done. But, it’s better to be safe than sorry! If you find a lump or mole that you are concerned about, it’s your best bet to just check in with the doctor. Additionally, it is a good idea for men and women to get tested for colon cancer starting at age 50. Women are encouraged to get yearly mammograms starting at the age of 45. Although it may be nerve-wracking to get these tests done, they are very common, and if any sign of cancer is found, it could save your life. Early detection is key. Make sure to schedule tests for yourself, but also encourage loved ones to do the same.

These are just three small ways that you can keep your body healthy, and at low risk for getting cancer. Also, be sure to check out these the American Cancer Society’s website with additional ways to stay healthy: https://www.cancer.org/healthy.html. Thanks for reading!

Blog by Olivia Spar of the Southeast Region Campus Leadership Team.

Lung, Bladder & Pancreatic Cancer

Blog by Will P. of the Southeastern Region Campus Leadership Team

For the past several weeks, I have been working on organizing an “Amazing Relayer” fundraiser on Lafayette’s campus. The concept for the fundraiser is similar to the show, The Amazing Race, as participants in both race to complete activities in order to win. The idea of doing it as a Relay For Life fundraiser started (as far as I know) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and I have been basing my event off of theirs.

I wanted our event to be fun and enticing, obviously, but I also wanted to use it as a form of cancer education. I wanted to help spread cancer facts that most people are unaware of, even though they are important in terms of risk factors and prevention for different types of cancer.  In my research for the event, I came across some facts and information that even I was unaware of, so I thought it would be beneficial and interesting to share some of these facts, as well as other lesser-known tidbits, with the rest of the Campus Relay World. 

Everyone knows that smoking is a major cause of lung cancer, but there’s actually a lot more to it than that. I mean A LOT more to it. To start, smoking isn’t just connected to lung cancer. It is also strongly connected to esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon and rectum cancers. 

Building off of that, lung cancer is not just caused by smoking. In fact, roughly 20,000 people die of lung cancer every year after never touching a cigarette. There is an unfortunate stigma surrounding lung cancer where people believe that everyone who has lung cancer smoked, and therefore they brought it upon themselves. Lung cancer is also one of the least funded types of cancers, in part due to this stigma. Organizations like the American Lung Association and Lung Cancer Alliance are working to dispel this stigma. The second leading cause of lung cancer, which most people are unaware of, is exposure to radon, which is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and radioactive gas. The only way to know of the presence of radon is to test for it, which can actually be done fairly easily. You can buy tests online and have results within 1-2 weeks. 

Moving on, I found that pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates. The risk factors for pancreatic cancer aren’t unusual. Smoking, older age, obesity, genetics and diabetes top most lists for risk factors, and yet all have been linked to many different types of cancer. Different diseases, like pancreatitis, have sometimes been linked to pancreatic cancer as well. Ninety-five percent of all pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells, which produce digestive enzymes, and the other five percent start in endocrine cells, which produce hormones. Because pancreatic cancer can start in either type of cell, and the cells have completely different functions, the symptoms for the two types of pancreatic cancer are very different. Jaundice, weight loss and back and abdomen pain are a few common symptoms for cancer that starts in the exocrine cells. Sweating, rapid heart rate, and nausea are just a few symptoms for cancer that starts in the endocrine cells. 

Another interesting thing I learned was about bladder cancer. It doesn’t create the kind of buzz that lung and breast cancers do, yet it is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States. Although it can be hard to determine the cause, bladder cancer is many times caused by parasitic infection or environmental issues. One example of an environmental issue is arsenic in a water supply. There is strong evidence that relates arsenic exposure to bladder cancer. This, like radon, can also be tested for with some fairly inexpensive tests that can be purchased online. 

Now here are some shorter, but still not well known, cancer facts:

  • A study released a few years ago illustrated that sleep deprivation could lead to more polyps in a person’s colon and an increased cancer risk.

  • According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there are more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning (419,000) than lung cancer cases due to smoking.

  • For most cases of liver cancer, the cause is unknown.

  • Testicular cancer has the highest survival rate, while pancreatic has the lowest.

  • Certain trained dogs have been able to smell cancers! Seriously. MIND. BLOWN. And they’re accurate about 90-95% of the time, which is better than some lab tests. Get it? Lab? Because of some dogs… Nevermind. It’s a real statistic.

Well, I hope this blog has taught you something about cancer that you didn’t know before. If you have any questions about specific facts or statistics, or are interested in also doing an “Amazing Relayer” fundraiser, let me know. Shoot me an email at pfadenwill@gmail.com. 

Sources: American Cancer Society, NIH National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research UK, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Skin Cancer Foundation, CNN.

Why Do YOU Relay?

Relayers are often posed with the question, "why do you Relay"? Sometimes, they answer "for a good time", sometimes for service hours, or they may not even know how they got drugged into it. However, more often than not, as well as in my case, we Relay, for a personal reason, for a survivor. 

My school, The University of South Florida's Survivor/Caregiver Committee is launching a campus-wide "Why Do You Relay?" campaign! There will be giant display boards, flyers, chalked sidewalks, and gatherings for the student body to tell us "why they Relay"! 

I found it appropriate for the first people I pose this question to, to be the very people spearheading this campaign! The Community Manager for the area, Stephanie Lanni was quick to respond that she Relays for both her father and her uncle! The People Lead of the event, Lauren George took on her leadership role in honor of her mother, and because she believes everyone deserves to live a full life of happiness and healthiness! Survivor/Caregiver committee members Silvanna Astrada and Timothy Freeman both answered, that they Relayed for their mothers, and the co-lead for the Committee, Luana Pinto shared that she Relays, not just for her uncle, but for her boyfriend as well. 

Their answers tell us two things:

  1. That Cancer hits home for just about everyone

  2. That we MUST keep fighting the good fight, so that less parents, uncles, and boyfriends have to go through the daily struggle that the aforementioned unsung heroes do. These ELT members are passionate!

As far as the answer of a survivor goes, I decided to contact my go-to for all things survivor, one that is currently the Event-Lead of her community event, and one that I know pretty well… as she did give birth to me: my mother, Janeen Stokes. Janeen is approaching her ninth year of survivorship and is living life to her fullest, though the aftermath of Breast Cancer can still be felt on a daily basis. She became involved in a Relay after her father’s diagnoses many of years ago (too long for her to remember exactly), but due to her own diagnosis, had to take a multi-year sabbatical away from her ELT. However, Janeen would NEVER miss any survivor ceremony/dinner that she was invited to. She understood the importance of being around fellow survivors, and how just being there to support and uplift each other, if for nothing more than one day a year, could be the difference and impact needed to keep one of them… scratch that, all of them to rejoice and keep fighting! And that, is the reason for Janeen to Relay. Janeen, and all survivors like her are courageous.

My mother, like most survivors, wear their own purple ribbon badge with honor. Walking hand-in-hand with their caregivers around the track. 

However, for those that cannot walk the track physically, there is a great option for them to be involved in your event, regardless! They are able to sign up to be a "Virtual Survivor" and a loved one can walk the track during the survivor lap in their honor, with a picture of the survivor, or their name in hand. 

This is a great possibility for your Survivor/Caregiver committee's to look into for the future. This will allow more survivors, as well as their caregivers to receive all of the information about great programs that the American Cancer Society has to offer for them (ex: "Look Good, Feel Better" or the "Hope Lodges" around the country). I strongly encourage anyone currently reading this to take the next step towards achieving your survivor goals and look into implementing a "Virtual Survivor" program and initiative for your events! Virtual Survivors are the determined.

A Survivor/Caregiver Committee is one of the most crucial aspects of an Event Leadership Team. Without them, there would be no survivor dinner, recognition, or lap. Without this important group of passionate volunteers, there would be no Relay For Life. So, keep on keepin' on Survivor/Caregiver Committee members, you all are the heartbeat of your event. You give it emotion, excitement, and most importantly: purpose.

Collectively, we are hope.

Blog by Jesse Stokes - Southwest Region Campus Leadership Team

 

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

It’s September! The leaves are starting to change, college football is in full swing, and pumpkin spice lattes are back (if you’re into that). But more importantly, September is also a big cancer awareness month--September is the awareness month for childhood, gynecological, leukemia/lymphoma, ovarian, prostate, and thyroid cancers. In this week’s post, we’re going to be focusing on Childhood Cancer. 

If you’re a baseball fan, you may have noticed different players, coaches and reporters around the MLB wearing yellow ribbons. These are for childhood cancer awareness. Why is childhood cancer different from other cancers? And how can we join the fight? Childhood cancer, in the most broad sense, is any type of cancer that affects children. The most common childhood cancers are different from those that affect adults; childhood cancer is similar in that it is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. However, for children, these abnormalities come from their genetics, with little to no effect from environmental factors. And that is why we focus on Childhood Cancer this month: to give children a chance to reclaim their childhood from cancer.

The battle is far from over, but it’s part of our mission to celebrate how far we have come. This month, the CDC released new information about childhood cancer- some good, some bad. Brain cancer is now the number one cause of death amongst children and teens in the United States. Looking beyond this, however, we see that the reason brain cancer is the number one cause of death is because survival rates for leukemia, the previous leading cause, have risen significantly. In essence, the support and treatment has the ACS changing lives, with one cancer at a time. Additionally, the funding for new and alternate treatments has drastically changed the lives of those affected by cancer: compared to past decades, children diagnosed with cancer now have an 80% chance of surviving for 5 or more years, whereas the rate in the 1970s was 58%. This jump in survivorship is more than worthy of recognition, but know that the ACS’s track record shows that they will never stop fundraising and researching until there are no statistics such as these.  


The American Cancer Society fights childhood cancer in several ways. The ACS provides information as well as services to those diagnosed. On their website alone (cancer.org), there are dozens of articles regarding childhood cancer, covering subjects that range from coping with diagnosis, to understanding pediatric oncology better, and even to returning to school after remission). ACS programs, like Road to Recovery, Hope Lodges, and Look Good Feel Better, are all available for childhood cancer patients. The Society also funds research and health programs aimed at helping children with cancer and their families. Lastly, ACS CAN advocates for laws and policies that increasing funding for research, help improve the quality of life for children that face cancer, and broaden health care access. 

Curious how you can make a difference in the fight against Childhood Cancer? Here are a couple ideas to help you get started:

  • Help spread awareness! Posts on social media work well, but don’t be afraid to also start a conversations with people.

  • Wear gold to show support for families and patients of childhood cancer!

  • Organize a letter drive (possibly for upcoming holidays, like Halloween and Thanksgiving) to deliver to a nearby cancer treatment center to show a child that we are fighting for them!

  • Host an awareness/education event on campus for childhood cancer. There’s no better way to start off the Relay Year than a big cancer education/advocacy push!

  • Join ACS CAN! For $10 you get a year long subscription to the Cancer Action Network which makes a real difference when it comes to laws and policies. There are a lot of ways you can become more involved with ACS CAN if you have the time/ability.

Thank you for tuning in to this week’s blog! The inspirational children and families we are spotlighting this month show that it’s our hope, not our hurts, that shape our future.

Co-Authored by: Will Pfadenhauer and Ana Landon (Southeast Regional Team)