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THE MENACE OF CANCER

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When I was growing up I witnessed a couple of diarrhea related deaths in children under the age of five. There is this particular death of *Monica, she lived approximately 5 kilometers away from my home. Monica was a beautiful, jovial, African girl who had barely started school. From the stories I heard from the neighbors, she started to diarrhea like three nights before she met her death. Her mother was advised by fellow women to ‘keep her warm as she was suffering from malaria’ and that she would get well soon. This was a huge misconception about her illness. I don’t know whether it was a misconception or ignorance but nevertheless, it cost the life of Monica. Today when I think about it, painful tears roll down my cheeks, this deaths could have been prevented if only people were aware of what causes diarrhea diseases, how to prevent, control and manage these diseases.
Cancer has become a huge menace in today’s society. From the looks of things it is more painful. At the mention of the name cancer, what triggers most of the minds is death, leave alone the expensive treatment, loss of hair and the painful chemo as they inject the drugs into the patients’ veins. Creating awareness about cancer could be the fast step into prevention of cancer related deaths. For this reason, I want us to take a little of our time and explore some of the facts about CANCER especially in this month of October that is tagged as the ‘breast cancer awareness month.’
According to National Cancer Institute, Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place. When cancer develops, however, this orderly process breaks down. As cells become more and more abnormal, old or damaged cells survive when they should die, and new cells form when they are not needed. These extra cells can divide without stopping and may form growths called tumors. Many cancers form solid tumors, which are masses of tissue. Cancers of the blood, such as leukemia, generally do not form solid tumors.
Cancerous tumors are malignant, which means they can spread into, or invade, nearby tissues. In addition, as these tumors grow, some cancer cells can break off and travel to distant places in the body through the blood or the lymph system and form new tumors far from the original tumor. Unlike malignant tumors, benign tumors do not spread into, or invade, nearby tissues. Benign tumors can sometimes be quite large. When removed, they usually don’t grow back, when malignant tumors do. Unlike most benign tumors elsewhere in the body, benign brain tumors can be life threatening.
What Causes Cancer?
Each cancer is thought to first start from one abnormal cell. What happens is that certain vital genes which control how cells divide and multiply are damaged or altered. This makes the cell abnormal. If the abnormal cell survives it may multiply out of control into a cancerous (malignant) tumor.
We all have a risk of developing cancer. Many cancers seem to develop for no apparent reason. However, certain risk factors are known to increase the chance that one or more of your cells will become abnormal and lead to cancer. Risk factors include the following: lifestyle e.g. smoking, lack of physical activity; diets, certain types of infections; such as human papillomaviruses (HPV), Helicobacter pylori, and hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C viruses (HCV) and environmental exposures to different types of chemicals and radiation.
Prevention of Cancer
As we have noted from the causes of cancer it is not purely genetically caused and more than 4 in 10 cancer cases could be prevented by lifestyle changes (Cancer Research, UK), such as:
• Not smoking
• Keeping a healthy bodyweight
• Cutting back on alcohol
• Eating a healthy, balanced diet
• Keeping active
• Avoiding certain infections (such as hpv)
• Enjoying the sun safely (use of sunscreen, avoid prolonged sun exposure)
• Occupation (avoiding cancer risks in the workplace) and use of PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment)
Preventing Cancer Related Death
People should not die of cancer. Cancer is preventable and has a cure. The number of new cancer cases can be reduced and many cancer deaths can be prevented. Research shows that screening for cervical, breast and colorectal cancers as recommended helps prevent these diseases by finding precancerous lesions so they can be treated before they become cancerous. Screening for cervical, colorectal, and breast cancers also helps find these diseases at an early stage, when treatment works best.
Let us take an initiative of preventing cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Let us encourage our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, and friends and collogues to go for cancer screening. Let us all stand in the gap of creating awareness about cancer and save a life.
Here at IRES Kenya through the health and social care institute we have taken up the mantle by producing this piece we urge the person reading this to pass it over to another person and take it as a challenge go for screening today! LET US FIGHT THE BATTLE TOGETHER!
*Monica not her real name

BY Joyce Muthoni

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