Be proactive in preventing "cancer"


Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie recently announced she had a double mastectomy to reduce her breast cancer risk. Is it a good decision to opt for pre-disease mutilation?

The actress took this step because she carries a faulty gene that means she may be more likely in the future to suffer from breast or ovarian cancer. The very brave actress made the decision to have a preventive double mastectomy and may indeed go on to have other preventative procedures.

In speaking publicly about this very personal matter she hopes to help other women who are worried about cancer and to have young children.

This is very much a personal decision  based upon evidence given to her by doctors but it is also shocking to us all that a healthy young woman should feel the need to do something so shocking and radical. A double mastectomy is a major operation and many women who have had such operations will say that they were deeply traumatised; and most women would not be able to spring out of bed within days and get back to work looking as beautiful as Angelina Jolie. A mastectomy is a major trauma to the body and it must be remembered that Angelina was a healthy young woman who did not have cancer.

Clearly the trauma of watching her mother suffer from ovarian cancer had such a strong impact that she felt this was the best decision for her and her family. She made the decision to be proactive rather than wait and see and take her chances. Her risk of getting cancer was based on an estimated risk as science has not yet reached the stage where it can be predicted one hundred per cent you will succumb to cancer. This does lead to questions as to where cancer treatment is going. Is it a good decision to opt for pre-disease mutilation or are there other ways to be proactive in preventing cancer?

Instinctively we know that if we have a very strong incidence of cancer in the family we need to take greater care of our health. It is important to all of us that we are not just passive and that we play a responsible role in promoting our own good health. You have nothing to lose by eating healthy fresh food and taking exercise and you may have everything to gain.

Nutrition plays a central role in health and wellbeing; everyone knows the role of food in helping recovery after illness.

Doctors are not always trained in the impact of good nutrition and it is not a big part of medical school. When a patient comes to see a doctor with a complaint the doctor's priority is to talk about treatment and they may have little time to talk about diet and exercise. They may just have time to offer encouragement to follow a healthy diet. Being incredibly healthy is something we should all be encouraged to do to prevent illness. I have always been interested in the link between good health and diet.

Leading a balanced life is as important as taking exercise. Eating simple, healthy, colourful food and making water your main drink for the day, leading a calm and happy life keeps the body and mind healthy and well balanced.

So why do health professionals give so little time to preventing illness?
Some leading specialists I have spoken to recently said they were embarrassed that they never advised patients on nutrition because their urgent priority was treatment.  

Doctors do take the effects of junk food diets and foods that are known to be harmful very seriously.  Being healthy and taking exercise can influence your future health. Eating a Mediterranean style diet is a key to a long and healthy life according to studies.

Key to a healthy body
Physical exercise; good nutrition; good hydration; and reducing stress are all important factors in building a strong immune system.

Alva Carpenter/Nutritionist and fitness expert based in the Gulf. Readers can send questions to alvathursday@ardenhealth.com.

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