Mother’s Day marked the start of National Women's Health Week, May 13-19, a time for women to make a stronger commitment to their health. The American Cancer Society has a cancer prevention site for women called ChooseYou, and American Indian women are encouraged to check it out, says Dr. Sunshine Dwojak.
Dwojak, who completed her medical degree at Harvard Medical School and a masters in public health at Harvard School of Public Health, is working with doctors in South Dakota to understand how Native Americans are affected by head and neck cancer. Dr. Dwojak is an enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. She is committed to making health a priority for American Indians.
“Life expectancy for American Indians is five years lower than that for the United States general population. The most important thing you can do for your health is to make healthy choices. Cancer is caused by smoking, alcohol, and a poor diet. By making healthy choices, we can prevent serious health problems before they start,” she says.
Two-thirds of all cancers are preventable through a healthy lifestyle, including better food choices, regular exercise, skin protection, abstaining from tobacco and alcohol, and regular health screenings. ChooseYou.com is designed to help women incorporate these things into their daily lives.
“I know it sounds simple, but eating right, exercising, and quitting smoking can be very, very hard to do. The American Cancer Society’s ChooseYou site gives you great information about what you can do to prevent cancer, cancer screening, and healthy lifestyle choices,” says Dr. Dwojak. “It has tools that can help you set a goal and then provides support so that you can stick with it.”
Dr. Dwojak uses these goal-setting tools herself. “I decided to sign up for ChooseYou because I gained some weight after I had my first baby. I am using the Eat Right section to help me set goals, like eating fewer snacks between meals.”
Dr. Dwojak believes that American Indian women can really benefit from the resources on ChooseYou. “I think some women feel like they don’t deserve to be healthy and happy, or they don’t expect it to happen to them. I want you to know that you deserve to be healthy and happy, and that it can happen to you. Knowledge really is power. Seek out information from websites like the American Cancer Society’s ChooseYou.com, or ask your doctor or nurse. The more you know, the better choices you’ll be able to make.”
For more information and resources about health and wellness, please visit www.ChooseYou.comor the American Cancer Society website at cancer.org.