Cancer Prevention

Cancer prevention means lowering your risk of developing cancer. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

At the UI Health Mile Square Health Center, we’re committed to helping our patients live healthy, cancer-free lives. For patients who don’t have insurance, we have programs that make cancer screenings affordable and even free.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is when certain cells in your body grow out of control and begin to spread to other parts of your body. It’s a genetic disease, meaning it’s caused by changes to your genes (pieces of DNA) that control how cells divide and grow.

These genetic changes can be caused by:

  • Errors as a cell is dividing
  • Damage to DNA from something in the environment (like tobacco smoke from cigarettes and ultraviolet rays from the sun)
  • Passed down from your parents

Usually, your body destroys damaged cells before they turn into cancer. However, there are certain things, like getting older, that make it harder for your body to do this effectively.

Certain risk factors of cancers can’t be changed, like family history and age. But some factors are in your control, and making healthy changes can go a long way in helping you stay cancer-free.

Factors in Cancer Prevention

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Taking care of your body each day can lower your risk of developing cancer. These healthy
lifestyle choices include:

  • Not smoking to reduce your risk of many types of cancer, including lung, mouth, throat,
    colorectal, kidney, cervical, and more
  • Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce your risk of 13 types of cancer, including breast,
    uterus, colorectal, liver, and thyroid cancer. These cancers make up about 40% of all
    cancer diagnoses in the US each year
  • Wearing sunscreen to reduce your risk of skin cancer
  • Limiting how much alcohol you drink to reduce your risk of 6 types of cancer, including
    breast (in women), colorectal, liver, and mouth and throat cancer

You should also get tested for hepatitis C — which can cause liver cancer — at least once in
your lifetime if you are over the age of 18. Other times to get tested include if you.

  • Are pregnant
  • Currently or have ever injected drugs
  • Have HIV
  • Are on hemodialysis
  • Have liver disease or abnormal liver tests

At Mile Square, our providers can help you determine which lifestyle factors may be putting you
at risk for cancer. They can also make recommendations on how to incorporate healthy choices
into your life.

Cancer Screening Tests

Cancer screening tests check for cancer before any symptoms occur. This way, you can catch the disease early, when it’s easier to treat.

At UI-Mile Square, we screen for several types of cancer, including:

  • Breast cancer, using a mammogram 
  • Cervical cancer, using a Pap test or HPV test
  • Colorectal cancer, using stool tests and colonoscopy 
  • Prostate cancer, using a blood test called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
  • Lung cancer, using a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan

When you should start cancer screening and which screenings you should get depend on your individual risk factors and health needs. Talk to your healthcare provider about creating a cancer screening plan for you.

Our Partnership with the University of Illinois Cancer Center

Mile Square Health Center and the University of Illinois Cancer Center share a similar goal: ensure that all patients receive excellent cancer care. Mile Square Health Center/UI Health focuses on cancer care, and the University of Illinois Cancer Center focuses on the research that supports that care.

Every year, UI Health Mile Square partners with the University of Illinois Cancer Center and more than 55 community and national organizations to increase cancer screenings and community engagement.

We also share the goal of reducing cancer disparities, which are differences in factors like screening rates, new cases of cancer, cancer deaths, and length of survival after cancer diagnosis. Because the population served at Mile Square Health Center is primarily made up of patients who are of minority backgrounds or are underserved when it comes to healthcare, we can help reduce these disparities by increasing access to cancer screenings and care.

What’s more, our relationship with the University of Illinois Cancer Center allows our patients to take part in cancer research — opportunities that are essential for reducing cancer disparities.  

Patients of minority backgrounds are greatly underrepresented in clinical trials. Often, this is because they are not provided with access to trials or information about joining them. At Mile Square and the University of Illinois Cancer Center, we engage a diverse set of patients to participate in clinical trials, advancing cancer research and saving lives.