As reported to Chris Pirschel by Lisa Kennedy-Sheldon, PhD, APRN, AOCNP®, FAAN.
Estimates suggest that 30% of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes and vaccinations. We know that tobacco accounts for 90% of all lung cancers and contributes to increased risk for head and neck cancers. It’s also well known that sun exposure is associated with increased incidence of basal and squamous cell skin cancers, as well as the most dangerous skin cancer, melanoma.
Other lifestyle factors also contribute to increased cancer risk. Obesity has been linked to increased incidence of breast, endometrial, and colorectal cancers. Excessive alcohol intake is associated with higher rates of oral and esophageal cancers. Now, with the introduction of human papillomavirus vaccinations, we can prevent cancers such as cervical, anal, and some oropharyngeal. Screening techniques such as Pap tests and colonoscopies can also provide opportunities to remove or treat precancerous lesions before they become invasive cancers.
ONS recognizes the importance of providing education and resources to oncology professionals looking to decrease future cancer occurrence. We have courses in cancer prevention for oncology nurses and advanced practice nurses, including Prevention, Detection, and the Science of Cancer—Oncology RN and Prevention and Diagnosis—Oncology APN. We also have prevention publications such as Integrating Physical Activity into Cancer Care: An Evidence-Based Approach, A Healthcare Provider’s Guide to Cancer and Obesity, and the upcoming Your Guide to Cancer Prevention, due out in January 2018. The Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing and the Oncology Nursing Forum have articles devoted to prevention strategies as well.
Currently, ONS is exploring partnerships with other national organizations to create resources that address the cancer prevention and screening needs of all people. In addition, we are focusing on educational resources for cancer survivors and their families.
ONS is advocating for the inclusion of more education about cancer prevention and screening into cancer survivorship care. One in five cancer diagnoses occur as a new cancer in a survivor. This may be related to lifestyle issues, such as continued tobacco use or obesity, or it could be genetic risk factors or late effects of treatments. Cancer survivors need focused education to decrease their future cancer risks. Increased cancer screenings, based on the previous cancer and other risk factors, may decrease the occurrence of second and third cancers in survivors.
A cancer diagnosis provides a teachable moment for patients and their families about cancer prevention and screening. Oncology nurses can take the opportunity to educate patients and their families to help prevent future cancers. As new information is developed and becomes available, ONS will continue to support prevention tactics through educational opportunities and resources for its members.