THE GOOD AND BAD NEWS ABOUT CANCER
Cancer is a group of disorders characterised by abnormal and uncontrollable division of some cells in the body, with subsequent spread to surrounding tissues and distant organs. It derives its name from the Greek word, “carcinos”, meaning crab, as it spreads in a manner similar to the way a crab spreads out its legs.
It remains one of the most dreaded diseases and a leading cause of mortality worldwide. There are factors that predispose humans to this deadly disease. Some are referred to as “modifiable risk factors” because if you
avoid them as much as possible, you stand a good chance of escaping cancer. Good news, right?
Notable among these factors are :
smoking (including passive smoking)
sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise)
unhealthy dietary choices (trans-fat, fried foods, pastries, sugars, excessive salt etc)
exposure to ionising radiations (x-rays, ultraviolet etc)
certain chemicals (HCA and PAH from cooking at high temperatures, aspartame from sweeteners, some pesticides and food additives)
certain infections (hepatitis B/ liver cancer, HPV/cervical cancer, HIV/skin, brain cancers)
some hormonal medications (breast and female reproductive cancers).
The world would be completely cancer-free if these were the only things we needed to avoid; except for a few people who still indulge in risky behaviour, afterall, YOLO! For example, cervical cancer in women can be prevented by delaying sexual debut and the use of HPV vaccines.
The bad news is that, there are other risk factors. Known as “non-modifiable risk factors”, there is little or nothing you can do to avoid them. It breaks one’s heart to see children, even infants battling cancer. What did they do wrong? Did they smoke? Did they drink alcohol? Of course not. Some may have been exposed to some insults during pregnancy, but most times, childhood cancers are inexplicable.
It is said that the only way to not have cancer is not to have been born. Some people just have “cancer genes” in their blood due to no fault of theirs. They got it passed on from their ancestors and almost nothing else is needed to trigger the disease. For such people, all they can do is to be on the lookout and take measures to actively prevent the cancer and detect it at the earliest stage.
Talking of prevention and early stages, that is another good news. Some cancers are preventable. Some can be creepy, insidious or difficult to detect until it’s almost late. However, with new medical technologies already existing and more to come in the nearest future, cancer can be nipped in the bud. Recent advances in genetic engineering, gene therapy, and immunotherapy have brought hope to people living with cancer and those who have high risks of developing the disease.
Here are my final thoughts:
1. Live a healthy life whether or not you have the inborn or environmental risks of having cancer.
2. Pay attention to your body and never ignore any telltale symptom you notice in yourself or your loved ones.
3. A diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence. Cancer can be managed and sometimes, cured.
4. If you are in doubt, seek information and help from medical experts.