National Cancer Prevention Month

  • February is National Cancer Prevention Month 2024! Nurses can be an educational resource for patients on how to protect themselves.
  • Cancer prevention can look like lifestyle changes to minimize modifiable risk factors and regular screening to ensure any abnormality is caught quickly. 
  • There are many screening options for patients at different ages, such as mammography screening at 40, colorectal screening at 45, and lung screening at 50.

Mariya Rizwan

Pharm D

February 14, 2024
Simmons University

February 2024 is National Cancer Prevention Month. Let’s discuss the role of nurses in cancer prevention and early detection.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2020, in the US, 1,603,844 new cancer cases were reported, and 602,347 people died of it. This comprises a huge number of people. In all these past years, many people lost their lives fighting the battle of cancer.  

However, the good news is that according to the WHO, between 30 to 50% of cancer cases are preventable. Around 50% of cancer deaths occur because of modifiable risk factors such as tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking.  

Nurses are the bridge between the patients and the healthcare providers by playing an essential role in cancer prevention, talking to the patient, counseling them, and getting a detailed medical history that enlightens about the patient’s cancer risk and leads to early cancer detection by timely screening.  

Role of Nurses In Cancer Prevention 

Nurses play a crucial role in cancer prevention by taking the right steps timely. Moreover, nurses can also take part in counseling that helps lower the incidence of modifiable risk factors of cancer.  

The following activities can help prevent cancer and lead to early detection.  

Education and Counseling  

Nurses play a vital role in cancer prevention by educating and counseling the patient on various things. Motivate patients for cancer screening at hospital visits or by doing home visits.  

Keep an eye on patients you suspect are at risk for cancer. Cajole them to attend screening tests timely and inform them that they help in the early detection of cancer, making it easy to treat compared to the ones diagnosed at advanced stages.  

Ask people why they are not getting their screening tests done in a timely manner if they show reluctance.  

Educate the patients about cervical cancer screening, HPV test self-collection, and breast self-examination, encourage them to attend mammograms for early breast cancer detection, and attend screening visits and follow-up for colorectal cancer screening and skin cancer screening.  

Inform them that different organs need to be examined for the growth of cancerous cells. Make sure your patients from the following population attend screening tests timely. Educate them about their importance, guidelines, procedures, and results.  


Cancer Screening at Different Ages
  • At the age of 40 to 54, women should get mammography done annually and regularly perform self-breast examinations. Women above 55 years should get biennial mammography done. However, in suspicious cases, it might be ordered annually. 
  • Women aged 25 to 65 should get themselves tested for human papillomavirus through screening tests such as  HPV, DNA, or Pap test & HPV DNA test, every 5 years. However, after 65 years, the screening can be discontinued if results from the last ten years are negative. Also, educate the patients to get vaccinated against HPV.  
  • Men and women aged above 45 should get screened for colorectal cancer with the help Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) with at least 50% sensitivity or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) with at least 50% sensitivity, done annually by spontaneously passed stool specimens or multi-target stool DNA test done every 3 years, or flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every 5 years, colonoscopy every 10 years or CT Colonography every 5 years.  
  • Women at menopause or reaching menopause should be checked for abnormal endometrial thickening through transvaginal ultrasound. In suspicious cases, a biopsy of the endometrial tissue may also be needed. Women should also be educated about signs and symptoms of endometrial cancer and should be encouraged to report to the physician soon if they have abnormal vaginal bleeding.  
  • Current or former smokers aged 50-80 in fairly good health with a 20+ pack year history should get their lungs screened for any abnormal cellular changes with the help of low-dose helical CT (LDCT), annually according to the guidelines of The American Cancer Society in 2023. The screening guidelines for lung cancer screening are currently being reviewed. So they may change in the future.  
  • Men above 50 years old should get themselves screened for prostate cancer through prostate-specific antigen tests with or without digital rectal examination every 2 to 4 years, depending on the quantity of PSA.  
  • Encourage patients to check their skin thoroughly often for any abnormal changes to screen for skin cancer. Ask them to report to you soon if they observe any mole or abnormal growth on their skin.  


With screening, counseling the patient is essential, especially if the patient’s reports come out abnormal, indicating a cancerous growth. Inform them about what’s going on inside their body, the treatment options, and refer them to the specialist. Also, make sure they attend follow-up visits with their healthcare provider.  

Perform Health Assessments  

Nurses play a vital role in taking a medical history and making health assessments. Identify patients at risk of cancer and require screening tests promptly. Assess them for cancer risk factors such as tobacco use, alcohol intake, high-fat diet intake, and other factors.  

Nurses can also identify the patient for signs of cancer, such as a history of a palpable lump in the breast or previous breast abnormality and complete history and examination of abnormal vaginal bleeding. Also, keep an eye on the pediatric population for any symptoms of cancer.  

Inform People About Modifiable Risk Factors 

The most common cause of lung cancer is tobacco smoke, and liver cancer is alcohol. Both are modifiable risk factors, meaning if the patient wills, they can stop their intake. As a nurse, you should inform your patients about the consequences of what they consume. 

 Encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle and guide them to rehabilitation if they find it arduous to quit smoking and alcohol intake. Tell them to incorporate daily physical activity, shed extra pounds, and get rid of obesity as soon as possible.  

The Bottom Line

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry, serving as a bridge between the patients and the physicians. They play a vital role in cancer prevention and early detection.  

On this National Cancer Month, February 2024, we thank all the nurses working hard day and night with their patients, serving their best.  

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