According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) about 24.6 million people live with cancer worldwide while about 12.5 percent of all deaths are attributable to cancer. It also states that an estimate of more than 100,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer yearly, while about 80,000 die from the disease. This then implies that about 240 Nigerians fall victim to this dreadful epidemic on a daily basis, or 10 Nigerians dying every hour from cancer. We are also reminded that the country’s cancer death ratio of 4 in every 5 affected persons happens to be one of the worst in the entire planet! PharmaTimes Editor, MORGAN NWANGUMA in this story lets us know why there is a great cause for worry, and what can be done.
Cancer is any malignant growth or tumour caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division; it may spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system or the blood stream. Many factors have been attributed to the cause of cancer, which comes in various forms. But it is unfortunate that medical science is yet to pinpoint specifically what the primary cause of cancer is. But what is clear is that whatever be a causative factor in cancer, the mode of attack on the body system remains the same. This is the development of malignant tumours brought on by abnormal and uncontrolled multiplication of cells. It can occur in any part of the body depending on the cause.
Signs & Symptoms
It is vital that you are able to detect early warnings of cancer because it is easier to deal with at that stage rather than later, when it has spread and become almost impossible to treat. Whatever be the cause of cancer, experts say it is very important to be observant and watch out for any visible signs and symptoms. Now, the signs tend to vary according to their types, and men and women tend to be affected more by some than others. In this wise there are basic signs and symptoms men and women must look out for.
According to experts the followings are early symptoms the men manifest in cases of cancer: Frequent bowel problems like stomach pains, diarrhoea and constipation – could be signs of colorectal cancer.
Rectal bleeding or consistent bleeding in the stool as a result of say iron deficiency anaemia due to blood loss, but not bleeding due to haemorrhoids, is also important to note in this case.
As from age 60 if you experience urinary problems of different sorts including incontinence, blood in urine, straining to urinate, etc, they could be early signs of prostate (cancer) problems.
Consistent back pain that may radiate to the lower back and hips, bones, etc. are not just normal.
Persistent cough and sometimes coughing accompanied with blood in the mucous could be a sign of lung cancer coming.
Watch out for testicular lumps; Excessive fatigue; Sudden and unexplained weight loss.
Breast cancer is not exclusive to women, and so any lump in the breast area of a man should be reported immediately to the doctor.
The following are some of the major signs of cancer that the woman must never ignore:
Breast changes: Experts say most lumps around the breast are not cancer signs, still it will pay to have you report any strange lumps you detect to your doctor so you can get a proper physical check on it. Also watch out for visible signs around the breast such as redness or scaling of nipple or skin of breast, nipple discharge, dimpling of skin, and turning inwards of nipple.
According to Marleen Meyers, MD, an oncologist at NYU Langone Medical Centre, USA, “women are natural bloaters”. But he says this should go away quickly; but if it persists and especially coming with weight loss, it could be a sign of ovarian cancer. See your doctor to be sure it is not.
Bleeding in between periods, as well as bleeding after menopause can mean something unpleasant, experts say.
Skin changes: The colour, shape or size of a mole or other spot is a common sign of skin cancer, says Dr. Meyers. Also, blood in your urine or stool is something you must not ignore. Bloody urine is usually the first sign of kidney or bladder cancer says Herbert Lepor, MD, a urologist at NYU’s Langone. Changes in lymph nodes such as swellings in any part of your body that persists could be a sign of leukaemia or lymphoma.
Other symptoms women should watch out for include – problem swallowing, rapid weight loss even when you are not trying to; heartburn, changes in the mouth such as white or bright red patches especially if you smoke. Constant or regular fever and extreme fatigue that will not go away should be reported to your doctor as well. Also observe that cough, general pain, belly pain, and depression that last for unusually long period of time; they are symptoms that should worry you ladies.
The Case with Nigeria
In Nigeria experts are of the general opinion that the issue of cancer has reached an epidemic proportion and as such something drastic needs to be done and fast. They say cancer is no longer alien to our clime; it is indeed a disease that Nigerians ought to be worried about. The horrible fact is that more than 100,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer yearly, while about 80,000 die from the disease according to a WHO official report. In summary this simply means there is a lot of work to be done on the part of healthcare practitioners and scientists such as doctors, pathologists, surgeons and everyone involved in the war against cancer including non-governmental organisations, and media practitioners alike, and indeed all of us.
Treatment of cancer
Global statistics show that if humanity does not effectively put a rein on this dreaded disease, in 14 years time, that is by 2030 or so, one in two persons will have one form of cancer or another. The facts also tend to suggest that in the near future the impact is likely to be more felt in the developing parts of the world which includes Nigeria. The telltale is already with us and so we really need to do something urgent about it.
And so we really have to incorporate all the available means of checking the scourge including the modern treatments like immunohistochemistry, as well as ‘non-traditional’ natural medicine in addition to what is on ground. As at today Nigeria is said to have just about nine centres that are equipped with just one machine each. It is that bad. Cancer treatment is expensive and besides, when one has a full blown case of cancer it is almost like a death sentence most of the time.
However, modern researches have been coming up with non-traditional (not chemotherapy) approaches to more effectively tackling cancer, and without all the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy. And so the future may just hold some bright light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against cancer. For instance, recent studies have shown that Ginger may just be more potent than chemotherapy and radiation, at fighting cancer cells!
In the year 2007, the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a study that confirmed ginger’s ability to fight ovarian cancer, which according to the American Cancer Society, is the deadliest cancer of the female reproductive system. The research reveals that ginger works by inhibiting cancer growth thereby limiting its ability to spread. The study states that “Ginger inhibits growth and modulates secretion of angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells…The use of dietary agents such as ginger may have potential in the treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer.”
Even a more promising result in this same direction is the study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Centre. It discovered that ginger actually caused the death of ovarian cancer cells in a laboratory. The outstanding thing here is that since cancer that is treated with chemo has a tendency to bounce back and even build up resistance to it over time, then ginger extract that is able to destroy the cancer outright must be a far better solution.
Other studies have also held true for the use of ginger extracts in treatment against prostate cancer, and also benign tumours such as fibroids, etc. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2012 lends credence to this.
But after all said and done prevention remains better than even the best curative measures. We need to do a lot more on mass enlightenment campaigns while teaching the public how to carry out self examinations, and know what tests to do regularly. From different studies we realise that the causative factors in the cancer scourge are as varied as the various type of cancers themselves. One thing that experts have come to agree upon is that man must begin to return to nature and shun chemical based foods and additives as well as processed or refined foods and drinks.
Studies prove that most forms of cancer are as a result of what we take in either in the form of ingestion through foods and drinks, inhalation of polluted air, radiation, HPV, and other forms of bodily contacts, etc. In the same token, prevention (and even treatment) can as well be effected by the right application or the lack of any of the above listed factors. For example, one of the most successful ways of preventing liver cancer is by vaccination against hepatitis B; this vaccine has been available since 1982 and the first dose is now being given at birth. Safer sex practices, including minimising the number of partners and using barrier protective measures such as condoms, could also protect against the transmission.
Also, it is now clear to us that the food you eat can prevent cancer or fight it. Nutritional health scientists tell us that foods high in refined sugar, refined sodium, and unhealthy fats have been shown in countless studies to influence cellular mutation that leads to cancer. Thus cancer cells feed well on sugar (glucose) to fuel their continued existence than any other cell in your body.
On the other hand, consuming a diet of organic foods with vitamins and nutrients that avert cellular deterioration will naturally boost your chance of averting and defeating this devastating disease, and even more. It is widely acclaimed by experts that dietary agents such as fruits and vegetables may just hold the key to chemoprevention strategies.