Cancer
Dr Uwakwe-mangse Hanna (MBBS, MRCS)

Not so long ago many people where attributing unexplained illness as witchcraft and some will even leave the hospital for churches, mosques or traditional homes when they are diagnosed with metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread from their original site to another side) of some sorts. In fact this is still a common thing amongst even well educated people.

I still believe in divine healing based on my faith but I also know that cancer is VERY REAL.
There are over 200 types of cancer known to mankind and while some are slow growing and easily managed some are very fast growing and also difficult to manage.


The key thing to take home today about cancer is to know your body and recognise even the slightest changes and seek help in a good hospital. Also know common cancers that are familial to you (family history of same cancer amongst close relative of yours) and aim at getting checked regularly as to easily detect it early and treat it.

Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs.

Cancer sometimes begins in one part of the body before spreading to other areas. This process is known as metastasis- this I have explained above.

More than one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime- this is a huge number for us to ignore. The commonest cancers in Nigeria are breast, prostate and bowel, but unfortunately one will expect a structured system whereby such awareness is created and prevention and or up to date treatment made available to all irrespective of social status.

HOW TO SPOT SIGNS OF CANCER
Changes to your body’s normal processes or unusual, unexplained symptoms can sometimes be an early sign of cancer. This is not absolute, rather it calls for one to know himself/herself and take responsibility.

Symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor include:
⦁ a lump that suddenly appears on your body needs to be checked
⦁ unexplained bleeding through the anus or vagina
⦁ changes to your bowel habits whereby you start going more or less frequent than usual
⦁ difficulty in passing urine and or blood in urine
I will summarise the symptoms to watch out for in the common cancers we have in Nigeria.

LUMP IN YOUR BREAST
See your doctor if you notice a lump in your breast or if you have a lump that’s rapidly increasing in size elsewhere on your body.

Your doctor if not a surgeon should refer you to a specialist for tests if they think you may have cancer. Other signs to look out for in the breast are skin changes around the breast, bloody nipple discharge, retracted nipple or nipple that has gone inside.

COUGHING, CHEST PAIN AND BREATHLESSNESS
Visit your doctor if you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks.
Symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain may be a sign of a severe (acute) condition, such as pneumonia but also could be a sign of lung cancer

CHANGES IN BOWEL HABITS
See your doctor if you’ve experienced one of the changes listed below and it’s lasted for more than a few weeks:
•blood in your stools
•diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
•a feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
•pain in your stomach (abdomen) or back passage (anus)
•persistent bloating

BLEEDING
You should also see your doctor if you have any unexplained bleeding, such as:
•blood in your urine
•bleeding between periods
•bleeding from your bottom-anus
•blood when you cough
•blood in your vomit

UNEXPLAINED WEIGHT LOSS
Are you losing weight without trying to?

You should also see your doctor if you’ve lost a lot of weight over the last couple of months that can’t be explained by changes to your diet, exercise or stress.

REDUCING YOUR RISK OF CANCER
This for me is or should be a must for us all.

Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer.

For example:
⦁ healthy eating
⦁ taking regular exercise and avoid overweight or obesity like a plague
⦁ not smoking or quit if you are already smoking
⦁ quit drinking especially if you drink excessively
⦁ do a three yearly mammogram if you are 49 and above female
⦁ do a regular self-breast examination
⦁ do a 3 yearly PAP smear test if you are a sexually active woman, married or unmarried

CANCER TREATMENT

Surgery is the first treatment to try for most types of cancer, as solid tumours can usually be surgically removed. This is mostly the case when it has not spread to other places. Sometimes drugs (chemotherapy) are given to shrink the size of the cancer so as to downsize it and or make it easier to be operated upon.

Two other commonly used treatment methods are:
•chemotherapy – powerful cancer-killing medication
•radiotherapy – the controlled use of high-energy X-rays

In conclusion anyone can develop cancer, whether there is a family history to it or not and the key thing is to identify any changes in your body and seek help and also to do a yearly health check or MOT.

Cancer is real and could be a devastating diagnosis But it also now better treated than before especially if diagnosed early.

See you next week.




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