Good News Over Cancer: You Can Prevent, Detect, Treat, and Overcome Cancer
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases characterized by the growth of abnormal cells beyond their usual boundaries,.. and can then invade adjoining parts of the body and/or spread to other organs in the body. Cancer can affect almost any part of the body- WHO
Good News No 1: Cancer Can be Prevented
“Between 30-50% of all cancer cases are preventable! Prevention offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control of cancer”. WHO
Adopting healthy lifestyles you can reduce exposure to cancer risk factors and deaths.
Seven 7 ways you can prevent cancer.
(This information has been adapted from World Health organization).
1. Stop or avoid consuming Tobacco.
Tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality and kills approximately 6 million people each year, from cancer and other diseases. Tobacco smoking, including Second-hand smoke, and Smokeless tobacco, causes cancers of the lung, oesophagus, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach and cervix.
Stop consuming tobacco products, or avoid them all together and prevent these cancers
2. Improve physical activity, consume health diets, manage your weight- don’t be overweight or obese
Dietary modification is another important approach to cancer control. There is a link between overweight and obesity to many types of cancer such as oesophagus, colorectum, breast, endometrium and kidney. Diets high in fruits and vegetables may have an independent protective effect against many cancers.
Regular physical activity and the maintenance of a healthy body weight, along with a healthy diet, considerably reduce cancer risk and the risk of other non-communicable diseases.
3. Alcohol use
Alcohol use is a risk factor for many cancer types including cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and breast. Risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Heavy drinking of alcohol combined with tobacco use substantially increases the risks of several types cancer. Alcohol-attributable cancers are predominantly among men.
Stopping consumption of alcoholic products, or reducing amount of alcohol consumed can prevent these cancers
About 50% of cancers in some Sub Saharan Africa are attributable to infectious agents such as helicobacter pylori, human papilloma virus (HPV), hepatitis B and C, and Epstein-Barr virus.. Vaccines are available for hepatitis B virus and some types of HPV and can reduce the risk of liver and cervical cancers, respectively. Find out what vaccines are available for you at your local health center.
5. Environmental Pollution
Pollution of air, water and soil with carcinogenic chemicals contributes to the cancer burden depending on the geographical settings. Outdoor air pollution is cancer-causing for humans.
Premature deaths from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels, have been reported.
Indoor air pollution from coal fires doubles the risk of lung cancer, particularly among non-smoking women.
Also, exposure to carcinogens occurs via the contamination of food, such as aflatoxins or dioxins.
Pursue safe cooking options and improve ventilation. Also be aware of and limit exposure to such pollutants as well as contaminated water, and foods.
6. Occupational Carcinogens
More than 40 agents, mixtures and exposure circumstances in the working environment are carcinogenic to humans and are classified as occupational carcinogens. The risk of developing a particular form of cancer may be much higher than for populations in certain occupation than the general population.
Occupational carcinogens are causally related to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and bladder cancer. For example, mesothelioma (cancer of the outer lining of the lung or chest cavity) is to a large extent caused by work-related exposure to asbestos.
Be aware of and research impact of materials being used at your work place, improve ventilation, push for implementation of NEMA standards at your work place among others
Exposure to radiation, from both natural and man-made sources, increases the risk of various types of malignancy including leukemia and a number of solid tumors. Risks increase when the exposure occurs at a young age and also when the exposure amount is higher.
a) Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and in particular solar radiation, is carcinogenic to humans, causing all major types of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. Avoiding excessive exposure, use of sunscreen and protective clothing are effective preventive measures. Avoid UV-emitting tanning devices.
b) Radiation is used in medicine and can help save lives as well as prevent the need for more invasive procedures. However, inappropriate use may cause harm because of unnecessary and unintended radiation doses for patients. Seek cancer treatment under watch of an oncologist.
c) Residential exposure can also arise from radon, a naturally radioactive gas sometime present in soil and building materials increase risk of lung cancers. Radon levels in homes can be reduced by improving the ventilation and sealing floors and walls.
Good News No. 2: Cancer Can Be Detected Early
“Worldwide, about a third of all cancers are estimated to be amenable to early detection and potential cure with treatment” WHO
Some cancers when detected early can be treated. Early diagnosis improves cancer management since it ensures care is provided at a very early stage which increases survival rates, and reduced cost of treatment.
Screening consists of testing women to identify cancers before any symptoms appear. Various methods have been evaluated as breast cancer screening tools, including mammography, clinical breast exam and breast self-exam.
Breast Self-exam : Is an examination of both breast performed by you, on yourself. The goal is to identify any changes to your breast. If you observe any changes, please visit your local sub county hospital and request clinical breast exam, and further care. Please refer to cancer pamphlet for signs to look for.
Clinical Breast Exam (CBE): is an examination of both breasts performed by a trained health professional. You can visit your local sub county hospital and request clinical breast exam.
Mammography: uses low-energy X-rays to identify abnormalities in the breast. You can find this service at most Referral Hospital in Kenya. However it is most conducted to diagnosis a patient for treatment purposes. WHO recommends systematic mammography screening in women aged 40-49 years or 70-75 years only in the context of rigorous research and in well-resourced settings.
There are two types of test done to detect or screen for cervical cancer.
Visual Inspection Using Ascetic Acid
VIA helps discover pre-cancerous lesions which can be treated using cryotherapy. This service is available at most health facilities in the country. Please visit your nearest health center and request for this service, which costs only a few shillings, takes a short time, and helps prevent cervical cancer.
also called a Pap Test is a screening method to test for cervical cancer. This is available at some hospital facilities of laboratories in major towns in Kenya. Most likely a medical doctor will request this procedure, as needed. It is slightly more expensive and results take a few days to be out.
HPV Vaccine (Prevention)
There are currently vaccines that protect against common cancer-causing types of human papilloma virus and can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer. This is not yet available but the Ministry of Health has started rolling it out and will be available countrywide by 2019.
This is examination performed by a dentist or doctor to look for signs of pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth. The goal is to identify any signs early when their is greater chance for a cure. Some dentists may perform additional tests to identify abnormal cells.
Good News No. 3: Cancer Can be Treated, in Kenya
Accessing cancer treatment promptly is crucial and life saving. Finding and receiving care from qualified medical professionals is equally important. However there are very few cancer facilities and specialists in Kenya. Below is a list we have made, this list is not comprehensive but a good place to start.
As always start with your county’s referral hospital. Keep in mind however, most of referral hospitals may not have an oncologist, as at now. You can always seeking care at one of these facilities.
- Kenyatta National Hospital
- Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital
- Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital
- Kisumu Hospice
- Aga Khan Hospital
- Nairobi Hospital
- Texas Cancer Center
- M.P. Shah Hospital- Cancer Care Kenya Center
Palliative Care finds relief from pain and other distressing symptoms and integrates the psychological an spiritual aspects of patient care by offering a support system that help patients live as actively as possible until death, as well as offering a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement.
These three provide ways to help you overcome the challenges of cancer on your day to day life:
A. Support groups; Join a support group
B. Utilize services offered by a nearby hospice facility
Here is a list of Hospice Facilities
- Naitobi Hospice
- Kisumu Hospice
- Nakuru Hospice
- Embu Hospice
- Mombasa Hospice
C. Be a part of a Faith Community such as your church, Bible Study group, or fellowship group
Best News: With God You Will Overcome Cancer
Our dear friend, Lana Elder once wrote, “I still believe God could heal me at any time. But my hope isn’t in healing. My Hope is in God”
You see, Lana fought the fight to the “end” here on earth. When the doctors told Lana that her blood work was not strong enough to take any more chemo and that the cancer will continue to take over the good cells in her body, it put her ‘between a rock and hard place’. Lana wrote. ” But the truth is, I’m just resting in the shadow of the Almighty,” as Psalms 91 says: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Whom I trust’ ” Psalms 91:1-2. Lana went to be with the Lord, shortly after. Her hope was in God. And “there remains one thing that cancer could not not conquer; Hope”.
At Tumaini we offer hope through spiritual interventions to all our patients. We believe with God all things are possible for those who believe.