by Pogiso Mokwena
WHO ARE YOU?
Doctors refer to me as some kind of disease that occurs when there’s a cellular change that causes uncontrolled growth and division of cells. But I’d like to refer myself as a silent killer. I have siblings some cause a rapid cell growth while some cells while some are a bit slow but we are of the same origin. I can be shy or like attention, yes I know you sense some sort of contradiction but what I really mean is I can be visible as a lump in your breast now that’s when I seek your full attention and I can be shy like when I have camouflaged into leukaemia, silent – hence the name “Silent Killer”. I do not discriminate, I attack everyone man, woman, boy, girl, young, old, black, white, coloured, Indian, if I want you to believe me I will have you.
WHERE DO YOU COME FROM?
It depends on who is asking if you are a smoker – cigarettes grant me easy access to infect you and take control of your life, but that’s not my only access into your life – if you heavily consume alcohol, have excess body weight, physical inactivity and poor nutrition then you are what I will refer to as an easy target and those are the things that you can control and prevent but there is another one which you cannot really prevent – ageing especially when you are just above the age of 50 I can just walk into your life and sit comfortably while I eat the life out of you.
Your family history may or may not count in your favour when it comes to me, I am referring to your genes that can heavily contribute to how comfortably I can sit in your life. Your genetic code tells its cells how to divide and expire because the changes can lead to faulty instructions and that is where I make my grand entrance into your life. Some of your genes are pro me, as they change the protein that is usually there to repair damaged cells that is my free entry into your life so if either of your parents has those kinds of cells that could have easily been passed on to you or your children or the generation to follow then chances are I might just visit your family someday.
WHAT FORMS DO YOU COME IN?
Scientist have categorized me into different categories based on where do I emerge from
- Carcinomas begin in the skin or tissue that line in the internal organs
- Sarcomas develop in the bone, cartilage, fat, muscle or other connective tissues
- Leukaemia begins in the blood and bone marrow
- Lymphomas starts in the immune system
- The central nervous system develops in the brain and spinal cord.
But I come in different types even within the same categories
- Colon and rectal
- Kidney just to mention a few
HOW CAN I TELL THAT YOU ARE IN MY LIFE?
There are several ways that you can see that I have comfortably settled in your body and I do it with CAUTION
- Change in bowel or bladder habits
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- Unusual bleeding or discharge
- Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere
- Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
- Obvious change in a wart or mole
- Nagging cough or hoarseness
But as I have said that in some cases, I become extremely silent that you wouldn’t know about me until it is a little bit late.
HOW MANY PEOPLE’S LIVES HAVE YOU AFFECTED TO DATE?
I affect 115 000 South Africans every year, and roughly 6 out 10 are actually able to survive my presence in their lives. I affect men and women differently. South African Men have a lifetime risk of 1:7 ratio – I attack from prostate, colorectal, lungs and women have a lifetime risk ratio of 1:8 – I go from their breast, cervix, colorectal and uterus most of the time
DO YOU EVEN HAVE TREATMENT OR PREVENTION?
I come in different forms so I have different treatments
- Chemotherapy which uses medication to try and stop my rapid growth
- Hormone therapy that seeks to change how certain hormones work or interfere with the body’s ability to produce them (Especially when I have attacked the prostate or breast )
- Immunotherapy where medication and other treatments are used to boost the immune system and encourages it to fight the cancerous cells
- Stem cell transplant
- Precision medicine
- Radiation therapy where a high dose of radiation is used to kill cancerous cells
Believe me, I am not easy to kill. I will counter-attack, in the whole process of you trying to get rid of me your body will want to give. You will feel nauseous, have diarrhoea, loss of appetite and constipation. For your holistic care and support you can turn to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) Care Centre, I hear it is better to fight together with people who understand what you are going through
As for prevention
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid exposure to industrial and environmental toxins such as asbestos fibres, benzene, aromatic amines, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
- Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation
- Regular mammograms
- Doing physical examination for early detection amongst other things
They call me a silent killer for nothing, I have no mercy. I am giving you and yours a chance to at least have a solid conversation about me and try to know me a bit more a just in case I pay a visit in any of your bodies, I opened myself naked for you to see and know about me. Don’t ever say I didn’t warn you. I exist, I am cancer.
Men can also get breast cancer, however, their signs might be a bit different from women.
- Lump or thickening in breast tissue
- The increase in lump size and becoming painful
- The skin covering the breast turning orange
- The occurrence of dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling on the breast
- Nipples turning inwards or discharge from them
Dangers of breast cancer in men is often diagnosed later than in women, making it tough to treat. This is simply because men are unlikely to be suspicious of something strange in the area but even more, also their breast tissue is harder to feel, making it harder to detect.