As Cancer Mortality Rates Decline, What's the Takeaway For Nurses?

NursingMarch 20, 2014

In addition to treating patients, nurses play a crucial role in preventing disease. This is especially true of cancer, because most types of cancer are caused by preventable factors. Cancer mortality rates continue to decline, and control of risk factors and regular screenings have played a large role in this trend, according to a recent study conducted by the American Cancer Society. As a nurse, there are several things you can do to help your patients prevent cancer.

Encourage Patients to Lead Healthy Lives

Traditional healthy habits play a large role in preventing cancer. By adopting these habits, patients can not only reduce their risk of cancer, but many other diseases as well. Discuss with your patients how limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, avoiding sun exposure, exercising regularly and eating healthily can help them try to avoid cancer. When it comes to food, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts and beans are especially beneficial, but patients should limit their intake of sugar, fat, red meat and processed food.

Discuss Family History

While cancer in general is largely impacted by preventable factors, certain cancers are more influenced by genetics than others. Recently, actress Angelina Jolie revealed that she had a preventive double mastectomy because she has a rare gene mutation that significantly increased her chance of getting breast cancer. As a nurse, you can bring these factors to patients' attention so that they can make informed decisions about their health.

Remind Patients to Get Screened and Vaccinated

Screening can prevent some cancers by discovering precancerous factors and treating these in time. In other cases, screening won't prevent cancer, but can catch it early enough to increase the likelihood of a successful treatment. Two types of cancer can be prevented by vaccines: the Hepatitis B vaccine can help prevent liver cancer, and the human papilloma virus vaccine can help prevent cancer caused by the HPV virus when given to young patients. By suggesting screening and vaccinations that are suitable for your patients, you can contribute to the decline in cancer mortality rates.

Unfortunately, there are many types of cancer, and some are more easily prevented than others. While the factors above don't affect all cancer types equally, and none of them guarantee cancer prevention, patients that observe all three can greatly reduce their risk.

Photo Credit: Flickr