Cancer is back in the news again with Michael Douglas’s recent announcement of his stage four throat cancer on “The Late Night with David Letterman show.” It’s an unfortunate reality that a disease’s awareness is often only as popular as the most recent celebrity with a diagnosis, and so far Michael Douglas is no exception. A long time smoker and heavy drinker, Douglas certainly had a higher risk of developing head and throat cancer but his diagnosis was a long time coming.
After experiencing severe throat pain early this summer, Douglas explains that he attempted went through a “litany of doctors and tests” that did not identify anything unusual. Eventually, it was Douglas’s persistence for an answer that led him to a doctor who biopsied the tumor at the back of his throat and identified his condition as cancer.
In many ways, Michael Douglas’s story is a great example of what to do if you suspect, as he did, that something is wrong with your body- ask questions. Even though his doctors and tests were coming back clear, Douglas recognized he was ill and continued to pursue a diagnosis. As Douglas said in an interview with People, “Without having to blame anybody… these things sometimes just don’t show up.”
Ultimately, Michael Douglas’s story reinforces the importance of early detection. The two most valuable factors in early cancer detection are education and screening. Regular screening for cancer needs to be a priority in order to take control of your health and reduce your cancer risk. All too often we allow our busy schedules to interfere with our responsibility to our health, but regular screening and check-ups mean earlier detection. Education is also significant and it takes various forms. For instance, you should know your family health history and your risk for certain cancers. You should also know your body well enough to be able to sense changes in health. Those with a high risk for developing cancer should also preemptively research and educate themselves about potential cancer symptoms.