June is National Cancer Survivors Month

The National Cancer Institute considers someone a cancer survivor “from the time of their diagnosis until the end of their life.” There are more than 16.9 million cancer survivors in America. 
History of National Cancer Survivor Month
In November 1987, the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship announced that the first Sunday in June would be National Cancer Survivors Day, starting with June 5, 1988. While National Cancer Survivors Day remains on the first Sunday, the celebration and awareness has been expanded to include the entire month of June.
Honoring Survivors
Few things change a life as quickly or drastically as a diagnosis of cancer. Life’s focus changes to the constant appointments as well as the fear for the worst. Even after treatment has ended survivors may experience the following:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Fear of the cancer returning
  • Long-term physical side effects
  • Changed family dynamics
  • Survivor’s guilt
  • Positive personal growth
Here are some suggestions on how you can honor the cancer survivors in your life.
See the Person, Not the Disease
Regardless of which of these or other suggestions you decide to follow, it is important that you not loose sight of the person by focusing on the disease. Your family member, friend, or co-worker is still the person they were before cancer. They are not their disease. 
Volunteer to Help
There are many ways that a cancer survivor can use your help, especially during treatment. You can volunteer to

  • Provide transportation to and from appointments, or to do errands
  • Spend time with them
  • Send a gift if you are too far away to be there in person
  • Create cards or other art for patients in the hospital
Donate in their honor to:

  • St Jude
  • American Cancer Society
  • CancerCare
  • Research for a specific type of cancer
Respect the Individual’s Wishes and Needs
A survivor’s wishes and needs may be different than our own because of the cancer. This is especially true during the pandemic where a suppressed immune system increases the risk of infection. Even if the survivor has completed treatment, their risk is still higher than the general population and they may choose to take stronger precautions against Covid. 
Educating yourself and others about the risks of cancer, living a healthy lifestyle, and getting screened are important in the prevention of cancer. 
Cancer Risks
The following factors can increase the risk of cancer:

  • Obesity and inactivity
  • Smoking increases the risk of oral, cervical, colon, breast, and lung cancer.
  • Over age 65
  • Heredity
Cancer screening can help to detect cancer sooner, decreasing the risk of death. While your doctor may also recommend other screenings, the National Cancer Institute recommends:

  • Mammogram
  • Pap Smear
  • Colonoscopy 
  • Low-dose helical computed tomography (form of CT scan) for smokers
Two out of five people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life. It has touched each of our lives. Take some time this month to be intentional about honoring the cancer survivors in your life.