Cancer in France

France, a country with a population of 67 million people, a life expectancy of 82 years on average, the 7th largest economy as a measure of G.D.P, a premium health care system and a very high human development index, has a very serious problem regarding one of the most troubling diseases known to mankind: cancer. In fact, 1 in every two men will be diagnosed with at least one form of cancer by the time they are 85 whereas that figure drops to 1 in every three women. With this general data in mind, one quick question arises: why are the rates so high? This article will attempt to answer that question. First and foremost, it is important to explain that male incidence has dropped by 1.3% every year between 2005 and 2012 but it rose for women by 0.02% in the same period. The male figure could be explained because of more awareness, as data has become widely available not just through visits to physicians but simply due to internet access and periodic testing. Early detection still remains an important issue, regardless of gender. This may not influence incidence, but it would of course reduce deaths caused by cancer. Case in point, both men and women have reduced mortality by 3.9% and 1.4% respectively during the same time period. Another encouraging data to further explain this positive trend is the likelihood of curing cancer which (due to early detection, better treatment, more awareness and other factors) has increased to almost 66% in other words, only one out of every three people diagnosed with cancer will die which is still one too many. There is much to be done in order to improve those figures. Here is a list of a few things you could do:

 Regular medical care

One of the saddest things about deaths because of cancer is that they could have been prevented and are not because of not having the habit of visiting your physician and getting regular exams done especially after the ages of 30-35 which is when one stops being a young adult and the likelihood of cancer increases. The most common forms of cancer are lung, colon, skin, prostate for men and breast for women. You should get tested at least once a year and not wait until symptoms arise. Early detection as stated previously, increases the likelihood of survival by a large margin.

Don’t use tobacco

Among men, lung cancer is the most common type of cancer in France. Every year, 50,000 new men are diagnosed and over 20,000 deaths are registered because of it. Naturally, not just men die from lung cancer, in fact, France ranks as the 65th largest tobacco consumer in the world (per capita) which is relatively not very high. Also, several measures have been taken over the past decades such as banning cigarettes from public transportation vehicles, airplanes, parks and even academic facilities. In fact, consumption is decreasing especially among younger and more health aware millennials for example.

Physical activity

One of the main components of a healthy lifestyle must be regular physical activity. Usually, excuses arise such as lack of time or lack of places, but, experts recommend at least 20-30 minutes a day of exercise and at least a periodicity of 3-4 times a week in order to be healthier. At least in France, you can find hundreds of public venues in which you can jog around in or work out at gyms with competitive prices. Something as simple as walking around your block, already qualifies as physical activity or even walking on your daily commute to the workplace or school helps! Furthermore, there are now many applications and gadgets like smart watches to track calorie counts and daily steps for as low as 10 euros for example. Being fit or at least having a good physical condition has never been easier but also never more challenging (a distinction with a huge difference) because we also have many more distractions such as smart phones, laptops, video games and many other devices to keep us distracted from engaging in some kind of physical activity. The key point is to take advantage of technology to better track our progress.

Healthy diet

A good lifestyle is not only achieved through exercise but also with a healthy diet and good sleeping habits. In order to be more specific, a healthy diet consists of a regular intake of vegetables, fruit, protein from red meat but also fiber from wheat and other sources which all combine to achieve a better diet. Obviously food and beverages with high calorie counts are counterproductive such as chips, carbonated drinks, alcohol, potatoes, white bread, candy and others because they contribute to obesity. It is worth noting that many nutritionists do recommend at least one or two glasses of wine or beer periodically to improve blood circulation and other aspects ( Geoallo dentiste urgence ). The problem lies in moderation (or lack thereof), even a ‘’cheat meal’’ won’t kill you like a pizza or hamburger, the problem is, frequency and quantity. Keeping those under control and consuming more nutritious food is the key to a healthy diet!

As stated before, the problem is not just lung cancer, so in order to address one of the most common types of cancer for women, here are some figures about breast cancer. First and foremost, it is the most common type, in fact, 54,000 new cases rise up every year and over 12,000 deaths were registered in 2015. Lung cancer ranks second for women with 8,600 deaths and 8,447 deaths for bowel cancer. If you are curious about how dangerous smoking might be for women? It could quadruple your chances of getting lung cancer however, it is not as prevalent as it is for men particularly because, on average, less women smoke. With all of this data, you may wonder, what is the government doing (besides banning smoking in some public venues and other measures). In 2011, 14.5 billion euros were spent in cancer treatment alone which means a yearly expenditure of over 10,000 per patient.  It is naturally inhuman to speak of economics when so many people undergo tremendous pains and endure great hardships because of relatives who lose their battles with this terrible disease however, it has to be said that many times (not always) cancer can be defeated or avoided altogether. Those 14.5 billion may very well be used to preventive care rather than medical care once diagnosed. The process of battling cancer is also extremely painful not just for the patients but for their families as well. It is described by many who undergo processes like chemotherapy that it feels as though ‘’a wave of fire burns inside their organs’’ and also the treatment after the sessions includes vomiting, weight loss, dizziness or severe migraines. The families also invest themselves heavily into their loved ones’ care. Many abandon their studies or employments to accompany their family member causing further financial stress on the household.

Recently, processed foods have become a worrisome cause of cancer in France as well as in other industrialized countries. The main reason for individuals choosing that type of meals is their convenience but the nutrition facts behind them are very poor. This is particularly troubling among youth because awareness is far lesser than that of adults and also their propensity is not as high because of stronger immune systems. New websites are emerging to increase consumer awareness of these products in order to promote the consumption of whole and organic foods or fresher ones even. Also, organizations like the F.D.A (Food and Drug Administration) which is a federal American regulatory body to dictate compliance measures for food manufacturers and beverage makers, many of which export their products to the European markets are cracking down on products that are far too dangerous for children and adults alike, specifically those with very high calorie counts, sugar or salt-saturated products and others. There is big money in the food processing industry and thus a lot of clout inside the chambers of the legislative bodies like the U.S Congress but still, despite lobbyists’ intense efforts to remain deregulated, pressure is ramping up from consumers to raise awareness and impose more regulations among food and beverage makers. French parliament is also working diligently with suppliers and retailers as well as health care centers to create comprehensive policies to ensure healthier lifestyles for all in France (which directly reduces the likelihood of cancer). There is a major problem when it comes to whole foods as well as organic when compared to processed and it is: price. Processed will almost always be more affordable and convenient. There is an alternative to this (under the premise that people don’t have much time). Purchase your groceries with a healthy list over the weekend, then pre-prepare your meals, snacks and have them ready to just bring to school or work.

An interesting phenomenon that occurs in countries like the United States where health care costs are very high and insurance coverage not so good, is that they choose to engage in ‘’medical tourism’’ which consists basically on looking for more affordable treatment in other countries such as Canada, Mexico and even Central America. In the case of France, as long as your citizenship is well documented and your enrollment in health care programs or insurance policies has taken place, there really should be no reason to emigrate, in fact, inbound medical tourism is higher than outbound because of France’s high quality health care. It is undeniable that other countries such as Switzerland or Finland may have better health care but it all depends on the price, the coverage you can get as a member of the E.U or a foreigner and many other factors.

One thing that is important to remember is that there are concrete actions you can take to avoid or reduce your vulnerability to cancer. These tips apply to everyone so you can share them with your couple, your children, your parents etc. Much has been said in this article about the newly available sources of information precisely to become more aware about cancer prevention; also about the gadgets to better track your physical activity, healthy diet tips and food choices, but in the final analysis, it comes to a lifelong commitment to health. If you eat healthy but don’t exercise and stress too much at work or sleep less than 8 hours per day, there are missing component to the health formula. If you exercise, sleep well and eat properly, chances are you will be less likely to get cancer BUT if you don’t get regular physical check ups, an untimely diagnosis will not help increase your likelihood to defeat the disease. Regardless, the important thing is cancer is no longer a death warrant. As of this writing, more and more research is being done to find a cure to cancer but in the meantime, it is the responsibility of all life-loving people to do all the things that are necessary to avoid it. France has a lot of positive conditions towards those interested in healthy lifestyles such as: a broad variety of organic and nutritious foods, premier health care facilities, public parks and sports venues (to play not just to watch), a government committed to the health of its people (exemplified in the annual investments and their effective results) and finally a great geographic location to find other affordable destinations within Europe to get quality health care. Many of the tips mentioned here will vary depending on your age, genetic propensity, interest level, gender and love of life (yes, not everybody loves taking care of themselves), however, the important thing is understanding that life is a marathon, one that inevitably allows you to reap what you sow and therefore, if your habits are bad, your health will be bad. This will affect your children, your spouse and even yourself because after all, the desired end result of exercising, eating healthy, sleeping properly and other actions is: better quality of life. If you undermine that, your life will not truly be fulfilling.