Prevention And Detection


Prevention And Detection's overview It is sometimes hard to know why one person gets cancer and another doesn't. The cause of some cancers is not well understood. But about half of cancers can be prevented through healthy living, body awareness and getting checked (screening).

In the Prevention And Detection section you can find information and services to help you:

  • Learn about healthy choices you can make to reduce your risk
  • Find out what you can do to detect cancer early
  • Know when to get checked
  • Find additional support and information
Health Living

Healthy living can help prevent cancer. You may wonder how much difference changing your lifestyle can really make, but it can make a big difference. By choosing a healthy lifestyle, you can lower your risk of developing cancer. In fact, healthy living can prevent about 50% of all cancers.

Learn more about reducing your risk of cancer through healthy living.

Smoking & Tobacco

Nutrition & Fitness

Being a non-smoker is the most important thing you can do to protect both your own health and your family's (by protecting them from the risks of second-hand smoke). It's never too late to stop smoking.

In Canada, smoking contributes to about 30% of all cancer deaths and is responsible for more than 85% of all cases of lung cancer. Quit smoking now to lower your risk of getting cancer.

  • Smoking more, and for more years, can greatly increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Quitting cuts your risk of dying from lung cancer in half within 10 years of stopping.
  • Quitting reduces your risk of other types of cancer too, including cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, bladder and cervix.

Second-hand smoke is also dangerous. Breathing second-hand smoke can increase your risk of lung cancer and cancers of the larynx and pharynx.

Nutrition & Fitness

Nutrition & Fitness

Although preventing cancer is not as simple as eating certain foods or doing particular exercises, we do know that:

Being overweight puts you at greater risk of developing cancer. You can reduce your risk of cancer by staying at a healthy body weight.

You can maintain a healthy body weight by eating well, including lots of vegetables, fruit and fibre, and only small amounts of fat and sugar.

Exercising regularly provides protection against cancer. It's also a great way to maintain a healthy weight.

Eating lots of red meat and processed meat increases your risk of developing cancer.

Eating well is a matter of balance, variety and moderation. Although counting calories isn't the answer, it is important not to eat more than your body needs. You can begin by eating a variety of foods each day to get the nutrients you need for good health. Healthy eating can be easy, inexpensive and quick. It's a habit, and every day it gets a little easier. The important thing is to start now.

Regular physical activity can help prevent cancer and offers many other health benefits. Don't let the idea of "exercise" put you off. Working out in a gym or playing a sport is great, but physical activity is so much more than this.

Starting small is okay - every little bit helps. Think of ways you can add more movement to your day and gradually add more activity over time. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Take the stairs.
  • Park farther away from the door when you go somewhere.
  • Walk to work.

If you have any medical conditions or are not currently physically active, you may want to talk to your doctor about what activity is best for you before you get started.


Drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing cancer of the breast, liver, esophagus, larynx, mouth, pharynx, colon and rectum.

The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk. If you do drink alcohol, follow these guidelines:

  • Women should drink no more than 1 drink a day and men should drink no more than 2 drinks a day.
  • Don't smoke. Tobacco and alcohol together increase your risk more than either does on its own.

Sun & Ultraviolet Radiation

Sunlight is important for good health, but spending too much time in the sun can cause skin cancer and eye problems. Practising sun safety can help protect you and your family.

Check your skin regularly. If you notice any changes in your skin, talk to your doctor.

Detection And Screening

Cancer Screening Early detection means finding a cancer at an early stage. It is often easier to treat cancer when it is found early. Knowing and recognizing cancer symptoms and having regular checkups can help detect cancer early.

Knowing your own body well can help you find possible health problems, including cancer, early. Be aware of what is normal for your body. Don't ignore anything that changes or seems unusual. Tell your doctor about any changes you find. The sooner you talk to your doctor, the sooner a problem can be checked.

What Is Cancer Screening?

Get checked when you are healthy. Screening tests help find some types of cancer early. Screening tests do not diagnose cancer, but look for abnormal changes in the body. Finding these changes can help prevent cancer or discover it early when it is easier to treat. Screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers saves lives.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about your risk of cancer and what screening tests are available to help find cancer early.

Which Cancers Can Be Found through Screening?

The cancers that can be found through screening include breast cancer, cervical cancer and colorectal cancer. Please click on the below links for more information:

Other cancers rely on cancer investigations that test for cancer based on signs and symptoms. These include:

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer No matter what your age, you should know your breasts and what is normal for them. Many women are alive and well today because they were aware of their bodies and were screened regularly. Self- awareness and early screening help doctors detect and treat breast cancer early.

It's important to understand that screening tests for cancer are not 100% accurate. For example, a screening test may seem to show cancer when none is there, or may not show cancer when it is present. But overall, screening mammography is the most reliable method of checking for breast cancer.

Your doctor may examine your breasts (a clinical breast examination) during regular physical exams or if you notice a change

If you are:

  • 35 to 49, talk to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer and the benefits and risks of mammography
  • Over 50, have a mammogram (breast x-ray) every 2 years
  • At high risk of developing breast cancer, start breast screening at age 30

How Do I Know if I Am at High Risk for Breast Cancer?

For most women, high risk is linked to a family history of breast or other cancers. If you have a history of cancer in your family, you may wish to speak to your doctor for genetic counselling.

Cervical Cancer

The most common cause of cervical cancer is infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is most often spread through sexual contact. The virus can stay dormant and then appear years after you were exposed to it.

A Pap test every 1 to 3 years can screen for infections. How often you get a Pap test depends on your previous test results. If you've had a hysterectomy (had your uterus removed), talk to your doctor about whether you still need Pap tests.

Some, but not all, HPV infections can be prevented with the new HPV vaccines. Even if you have been vaccinated you still need regular Pap tests.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer Men and women over age 50 should be screened for colorectal cancer.

If you are at average risk, you should have a stool test called a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) once every 2 years. An FOBT is a simple test that you do at home.

Anyone can get colorectal cancer, but some people are more likely to get it than others. That means they have a higher risk. Your risk of getting colorectal cancer is higher if:

  • Someone in your family has had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
  • You've had colorectal polyps before
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease)

If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may need to get checked before age 50. Talk to your doctor about your family history and find out if you should have a colonoscopy (an examination of the inside of your colon).

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer The biggest risk factors for developing lung cancer are smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke or air quality hazards. You can help prevent lung cancer by being a non-smoker and avoiding second-hand smoke and exposure to air quality hazards.

Two common tests used for lung cancer screening are chest x-ray and sputum cytology:

  • Chest x-rays look for abnormalities in the lungs.
  • Sputum cytology analyzes mucus from the lungs under a microscope to check for cancer.

Discuss these tests with your doctor if you have symptoms such as:

  • Breathing problems
  • Frequent lung infections
  • Increased amount of phlegm, or blood in your phlegm
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble swallowing

Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer Doctors can use the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test and a digital rectal exam to help detect the possibility of prostate cancer. But it is not clear if the benefits of testing for prostate cancer outweigh possible harms. Talk to your doctor about your own risk for prostate cancer and the potential benefits and harms of early testing for you.

When Is It Time to Talk?

Speak with your doctor about prostate cancer screening if you:

  • Will soon be 50 years old
  • Are over 50 and have not yet discussed prostate cancer screening
  • Have a family history of prostate cancer, which puts you at higher risk
  • Are of African ancestry, which puts you at higher risk
  • Have symptoms of prostate cancer, such as changes in urination patterns (needing to go more often, not being able to stop the urine flow, difficulty urinating)

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer There are two types of skin cancer -non-melanoma and melanoma. Many cases of skin cancer can be cured if they're found and treated early.

Learn what to look for and check your skin regularly. Get someone to help you check hard-to-see places such as the back of your neck and ears, your back and the backs of your legs.

Look for:

  • Any change in the colour, shape, size or surface of a mole or birthmark
  • Any new growth on your skin - pale, pearly bumps that grow larger and develop a crust, or sharply defined red, scaly, patches
  • Sores that don't heal
  • Any area of skin that itches, swells, bleeds, oozes or becomes red and bumpy

Talk to your doctor if you notice any changes or are not sure about what to look for.

Testicular Cancer

Testicular Cancer Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men, especially men between 25 and 29 years.

There is no one cause of testicular cancer, but some factors put men at higher risk:

  • Family or personal history of testicular cancer
  • Being between ages 15 and 49
  • Delayed descent of the testes (if not corrected early)
  • Abnormal testicle development

Some men who develop testicular cancer don't have any of these risk factors. That is why it is important to know what is normal for your testicles. Check yourself regularly and report any changes to your doctor.