My review on Cancers
There are different types of diseases and there are several classifications. Some are congenital which means present from the birth, some are hereditary which means they are inherited or running in the families, others are acquired which means the person has to get in contact with the micro-organism or gradually develop the illness through environment or lifestyle.
Most of these acquired diseases are infectious diseases which involves micro organisms or parasites invading the body. Others are acquired by virtue of the process of aging, the lifestyle we adopt or the environment we live. Diseases that are multi-factorial are the ones that occur by virtue of interaction between (1) our nature/genetics, (2) the environment in which we live and (3) the lifestyle we adopt.
Cancers generally fall into the category of multi-factorial diseases. For example, cancer of the stomach was found to be more common in Japan than the rest of the world and was linked to the kind of food they eat. Another example is lung cancer which is commoner in people who smoke.
The main thing about multi-factorial diseases is that not everyone who adopts the same life style or lives in the same environment or who are members of the same family will have the disease. Therefore, since those recognized factors have been implicated, individuals at risk will have to modify their life style/environment, because they cannot change their nature/genetics.
I will simply define cancers as diseases caused by development of abnormal cells in the body. Our body is made of tiny units called cells. Just like every building is primarily made up of blocks/bricks arranged in a particular manner. The combination of bricks with cement makes several designs that make the house beautiful. So also, our body is made up of cells. The cells make up tissues, different tissues align in an orderly fashion to become an organ, different organs make up a system while the body is made up of different systems.
For example, the digestive system is made up of the mouth, gullet, stomach, the intestines and the anus. Each of these organs is made up of different tissues which are also made up of several types of cells.
Cancer arises from the development of a single abnormal cell. Normal cells have ability to multiply (that is why when we have wounds, the wounds get healed). This ability to multiply is controlled by the body. Abnormal multiplication is prevented and strictly controlled. However cancer cells because they are abnormal, continue to multiply abnormally, the rapid growth of these abnormal cells soon begin to destroy surrounding normal tissue and to use up body reserves. Cancer cells also have the ability to spread to other parts of the body.
- Cancer can develop in any part of the body.
- Each cancer therefore has different nature/attitude/pattern of manifestation (because there are thousands of different cells in the body)
- At the onset, most cancers develop without the knowledge of their existence because
- The cells are too tiny to see with naked eyes.
- They do not usually cause pain at onset
- Many abnormal growths occur in the body, similar to cancer but are not cancers.
- The difference between cancer and other growths becomes obvious later on. Not at the beginning. The difference between cancer and benign growth is that the benign growth does not usually destroy other surrounding tissues, nor spread to other parts of the body, e.g breast lumps. Many lumps in the breasts are benign i.e. abnormal but not dangerous. Only about 20% of lumps in the female breast are cancers.
- The body has a way of getting rid of abnormal cells in the body. The ones that develop into cancer are those that succeed in escaping the protection of the body. So cancer cells can be likened to criminals in the society. (Actually, they are better likened to armed robbers. Who the police are supposed to capture and keep away constantly. The ones who discover how to escape from the police becomes a nuisance to the community, It is the same with cancer cells in the body).
Therefore, any time cancer is found in the body, the best solution is to detect it and remove it. This is what the body does for most of us. Thus, when cancers occur it occurs in cells that have evaded the body’s immune system. That is why not everyone in the same environment and same lifestyle will develop cancer. Since we do not know who will not, we all need to be aware of predisposing lifestyles and environment and either modify those identified factors or avoid them.
Note also that cancers are different from other diseases. Many diseases can be treated with drugs alone, because those drugs affect the organism causing the disease but spare the cells of the body. However in the case of cancers, it is the body cell that became abnormal, thus any drug that is aimed at destroying cancer cells will also harm normal cells. For example: there is no gun that can kill a thief that will not be able to kill the innocent. That is why cancers are better treated by surgical removal other than drugs alone.
The incidence of cancer is rising worldwide because there are changes in lifestyles due to modernization and industrial revolution which exposes us daily to harmful toxins and chemicals and also as a result of better ways to diagnose them. We now know today that many diseases that killed people in those days which we attributed to witchcraft were cancers.
Nowadays we can almost accurately diagnose any cancer that develops in the body. This is better if done early.
Cancers are better prevented.
Prevention of diseases are in three levels;
- Preventing the disease from occurring.
- Preventing the disease from causing damage by detecting it early and dealing with it.
- Preventing further complications when the disease is detected late and rehabilitating the affected individual.
To prevent cancers from occurring can be an individual responsibility.
- smoking can cause lung cancer- avoid smoking.
- Chronic alcoholism can cause cancer of the stomach, cancer of the pancreas, cancer of the liver. Avoid alcohol or limit to social drinking
- Exposure to chemicals in industries, can cause testicular/bladder cancers, companies should buy protective gadgets for their staffs. If not made available, the individual should resign.
- Schistosomiasis if not well treated can cause bladder cancer; avoid bathing in the rivers/streams into which people urinate. Especially in the village.
- In US, people that have the gene for breast cancer (who inherited the tendency to have breast cancer) go for removal of their breasts once they complete their family
Second level of Prevention which is early detection and treatment has a dual role.
The first role is for the government. It includes Public health education, creation of screening centers and establishment of screening policies. Examples of screening include mammography for breast cancer, serum PSA measurements for prostate cancer.
The second role is personal. As an individual, you need to start taking personal responsibility for your health.
Individuals need to learn how to check their body regularly.
- Breast cancers: Every woman of reproductive age should do breast self examination monthly. This helps to know how their normal breast is, such that if any abnormal lesion occurs in their breast, they will detect it on time.
Likewise, all women above 40 years should go for mammography screening. Based on the findings you will be advised on when to return for a repeat, either yearly or within 2-5 years.
- Cancer of the testis: All young men from 18 yrs upward must check their scrotum regularly and know the actual size, orientation and feel of each of their testis.
- Prostate cancer: Every male above 40 years should go to hospital for a rectal examination or serum PSA assessment at least one for a baseline and repeat it 2-5 years after till 60 years.
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Anyone diagnosed of cancer should stop running away from the hospital especially if detected early. That is the time the doctor can still help you. Early diagnosis is not a death sentence. Many people leave the hospital and go other people for help only to return when it is too late for the doctor to help.
If you believe in prayers, it is good. Let it be the doctor that will discover that you have been healed. He will declare you healed when he discovers there is nothing there anymore. You don’t need to run away while praying. Prayer could be the reason why it was detected early and may help the doctor to do the right thing which will cure you. Do not leave the hospital care in the name of prayer.
Many of you reading this will never develop cancer, so do not live in the fear of cancer which you may never have. However, you may have a friend, a colleague, a neighbor or a relation who needs to know what you have heard. Please tell them what you have learnt and remember to play your role in being responsible for your health.
I appreciate the fact that you patiently read this article to the very end.
You are my Pal.
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