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Know when to get a health check in 2008

Making a resolution to make sensible health choices in the new year is a smart decision not only because it will make you feel better and live a happier, healthier life, but also because it can significantly reduce your cancer risk. According to the American Cancer Society, at least 66 percent of cancer deaths, based on what we know now, could be avoided if people took the proper steps to protect themselves from cancer:

Maintain a healthy weight through proper diet and regular physical activity.

Get appropriate cancer early detection tests.

Quit and avoid tobacco products.

 The Cancer Society has created a unique online tool that can help you assess your health risks and create an action plan for healthy lifestyle changes throughout this year and for years to come. The Great American Health Check® is your chance to make 2008 your healthiest year yet.

Through the Great American Health Check Web site, you can find out which cancer screenings are right for you based on your age, gender, and family history, and print out a personalized action plan that you can discuss with your doctor. This personalized plan details which cancer screenings are right for you and what changes you could make in your diet and exercise habits to be healthier, and includes your body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight that is a simple way to tell if your weight is healthy.

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Women should begin screening for cervical cancer about three years after beginning to have vaginal intercourse, but no later than age 21. Screening should be done every year with regular Pap tests or every two years using liquid-based tests.

At or after age 30, women who have had three normal test results in a row may get screened every two to three years. Talk with your doctor to see if this is a good option for you.

Women at or after age 70 who have had three normal tests in the past 10 years may choose to stop cervical cancer screening.

Screening after a total hysterectomy is not necessary unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved last year the first vaccine developed to prevent the most common HPV types that can cause cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that this vaccine, Gardasil, be given to girls between ages 11 and 12 years and as early as age 9, at the discretion of doctors. The vaccine is an option for women up to age 26, but is most effective when given before a woman becomes sexually active.

The Great American Health Check is a great teaching tool, according to Kathy Yorks, an American Cancer Society volunteer and high school science teacher in Mill Hall, Pennsylvania. Although it was designed for adults, Yorks said she uses it to reinforce what her students learn in class.

“It’s so interactive – you read the information, make choices (like whether you smoke or not), and then get a personalized report,” she said. “We even talk about how to get parents and grandparents to take a look at the site.”

In the United States, men have a slightly less than one in two lifetime risk of developing cancer; for women, the risk is a little more than one in three. You can help reduce your cancer risk by making a resolution this year to be healthier, and the American Cancer Society can help. Visit today to get your personalized action plan for a healthy new year, or call 1-800-ACS-2345 anytime to talk with a trained Cancer Information Specialist.

The kickoff for fundraising for the American Cancer Society through the Relay For Life of St. Francois County will be held at 3 p.m. Jan. 27 in the North College Center at Mineral Area College. To register for the kickoff by Jan. 22, send an e-mail to: or call one of the three Team Recruitment Chairs: Kathy Paul at 573-358-0407; Kara Lewis at 573-631-6706 or Cindi Thurman at 573-701-7237.

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