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Cancers – Some essential facts and advice

Dr. Victor Ti / Khmer Times Share:
A nurse prepares a breast cancer patient before a Gama-ray test at the Cancer Centre Welfare Home and Research Institute in Kolkata, India. Reuters

Cancer is a terrifying disease. When someone is told that he has cancer, the first word that usually crosses his mind is ‘death’. His imagination then runs wild to feel the anticipated pain, suffering, etc., creating immense worry, anxiety, anger and often depression.

Cancer is a group of diseases with abnormal cell growth that can potentially invade or spread to other parts of the body. It can be very devastating and stressful financially and emotionally to the sufferer and his family.

For a disease of such devastating nature with high probability of poor treatment outcome, all effort to create awareness and to prevent the disease becomes especially important. Prevention is always better than cure. In other words, we should manage the cancer even before it starts. It is so much easier and cheaper to do so. To let it happen and manage it thereafter is a step too late and too little.

To prevent cancers, we ought to know what cause them. If we want to be realistic and look at its root cause, we have to be courageous enough to face our own weakness, to break out of our century-old state of denial and really pinpoint the very root cause of cancers. Cigarettes, chairs, champagne, C ultraviolet rays, cancer viruses and carcinogens are all secondary causes of cancers. All the ‘C’s cause the C (cancer). Many people know this. Yet, why are they continuing to indulge in them?

Look! Many people have been told time and again about these secondary causes. Many read about them, perhaps many times and some of them already know all about them too well. Despite that, they continue to smoke, sit around lazily watching TV, play on their mobile phone, drink alcohol excessively, indulge in sun bathing, practice unsafe sex, eat excessively and take in all sorts of carcinogens. If they know something is really bad for them and they still continue to indulge in them, isn’t that plain foolishness and stubbornness?

Yes, human foolishness and stubbornness are the major primary causes of cancers apart from the smaller group who may still be ignorant about some of the secondary causes.

No amount of awareness campaigns and health education is going to work if people continue their lackadaisical attitude. Hey, my dear readers, it is time to change, to nudge ourselves out of that persistent denial and do some serious thinking before it is too late. The “never mind” and “don’t care” attitude must end here for cancer prevention to be successful.

Cancer Research UK recently found that more than one third of all cases of cancer can be avoided. In the UK, smoking remained the leading cause of preventable cancer although it has dropped from 19.4 percent in 2011 to 15.1 percent this year. Second in line is being overweight or obese. Excess weight causes 6.3 percent of all cancers – up from 5.5 percent in 2011 while smoking as a cause is declining.

Obesity is a scourge of this new millennium. Children, the hope of the next generation, are rapidly becoming obese. If nothing is done to correct this trend, obesity shall slowly take over as the leading cause of cancers in this century. Sadly, the human race is eating more and more disastrously. We may be making great technological advances, yet the quality of our health could be on the decline. Once upon a time, many died from hunger, famine and poor nutrition. Today many are dying due to overeating.

BBC News recently reported: Janet Boak was diagnosed with womb cancer at 51, after she noticed spots of blood four years after her menopause. She had her cancerous womb completely removed. It was during her subsequent check-up that she was told being obese had contributed to the risk of having cancer. At that time, she was 127 kilograms.

“I felt that I was responsible for my own downfall,” Janet 55, said. “It stuck in my gut a bit, thinking I could maybe not have been in this position had I sorted my lifestyle out.”

Janet has since lost nearly 45 kilograms after she cut down on sugar, started cooking healthier meals from fresh ingredients and become more active.

People must know how to lower the risk of getting cancer. A healthy lifestyle again stands out as the No. 1 way of prevention. The best is often free and easily available. Yes, exercise is free and available anytime, anywhere. Not only is it free, it is also the most valuable form of cancer prevention. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, there is currently strong evidence that exercise reduces the risk of cancers of the breast, womb and colon. The more you exercise, the greater is your risk reduction.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the most important action towards cancer prevention. Other actions include avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.

Cancer screening is used to check our body for cancer before we have symptoms. Regular screening tests could help in the early detection of breast, cervical and colon cancers. This is the period when treatment is likely to work best. Lung cancer screening is also recommended for some people who are at high risk. Not all cancer screenings are helpful. Screenings for ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, testicular and thyroid cancers have not been shown to reduce deaths from these cancers.

Such screenings may even do more harm than good. The negative result that is often inaccurate may give a false sense of security to the individual. Any clinical signs and symptoms of cancer appearing in such individual thereafter may be taken for granted as non-cancerous. This is where the danger lies. The insensitive and often inaccurate cancer markers screening test may turn the ‘alarm’ off when that ‘alarm’ is real.

This is indeed a big disservice to the victim. Thus, it is important to consult your doctor about the type of screening tests that may be helpful to you.

My next column will be on ‘Obesity – The scourge of this millennium’.

Dr. Victor Ti, MD, MFAM (Malaysia), FRACGP (Australia), Dip P Dermatology (UK), Dip STDs/AIDS (Thailand), Dip. AARAM (USA), LCP of Aesthetic Med.(Malaysia) is an experienced expat specialist generalist (Family Physician) of BH Clinic, Phnom Penh. As a specialist generalist, he is skillful at diagnosing all general diseases and excluding the sinister ones. Apart from the general diseases, Dr. Victor is also known for his skill in skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, minor surgery and aesthetic medicine. He can be contacted via email [email protected] Tel: 023900446 or Whatsapp: +60164122977

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