Check your body, save your life
Dr. Bill Cance is in the life-saving business. His stories of survival link to one key action: patients were proactive. They were screened for cancer when needed, leading doctors to detect and remove cancer growth before the disease became dangerous.
“Unfortunately for a lot of people and men in particular, there’s a fear of getting screened and the hassle factor of going to the doctor,” said Dr. Cance, deputy director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. “Yet we have a lot of stories about people finding polyps early before they turn into cancer. We do have effective, less-invasive treatment, but the key is getting there early.”
Wayne Tormala, a 71-year-old Phoenix resident, wonders if he’d still be alive today if he didn’t start getting annual check-ups at age 40. Each year his blood test supplied critical information about his health, including PSA levels that measure prostate health. One year his PSA level had doubled, prompting further tests that eventually revealed Wayne had prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men.
“I felt fine at my annual check-up,” Wayne said. “Even through treatment and today, I never felt like something was wrong. My cancer was growing at a fast pace, and it only took a year for my (PSA) levels to double.”
On a professional level – as chief of the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Bureau of Tobacco & Chronic Disease – and through his personal experience, Wayne understands the value of seeking care before you feel sick. He also recognizes that some men will do more maintenance checks on their vehicles than their bodies, but he hopes they learn from his story and make the effort for themselves and their loved ones.
“Most diseases are very manageable when you catch them in a timely manner, and that can only happen if you get annual exams,” he said. “You have to know your numbers and know your options, which may include simple lifestyle changes and/or medications that can help you live a long, normal life.”
Know Your Numbers
Most of the top causes of death in Arizona and nationwide – heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes – develop silently, but blood tests and screenings can give us hints about how we should take care of ourselves. Once you’re in your 40s, it’s important to have conversations with your doctor about routine blood tests and upcoming screenings for colon and prostate cancer.
For example, if your blood pressure is high, you may need to make lifestyle changes like walking daily, improving your nutrition, quitting smoking and getting enough rest for your body, Wayne says. You should know your numbers for cholesterol levels, your appropriate weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
“Health is more than how you look – it’s about what’s going on inside your body that you might not know about,” Wayne said.
The award-winning, nationally recognized Arizona Department of Health Services is responsible for leading Arizona’s public health system including responding to disease outbreaks, licensing health and childcare facilities, operating the Arizona State Hospital, and improving the overall health and wellness of all Arizonans.