Monday, 2 February 2015

Cancer: Q & A and useful tips to prevent or reduce its burden

Cancer, one of the leading causes of deaths (8.2 million deaths were related to cancer in 2012 alone) in the world, is a term used in referring to a group of diseases, which can affect any part of the body . There are about 100 types of cancers and among men, the popular ones are; lung, stomach, liver, colorectal and oesophagus while among women breast, lung, stomach, colorectal and cervical are popular. (WHO, 2014)

What are the risk factors?

The risk factors include;
1. Unhealthy behaviour, which includes; smoking, unsafe use of alcohol, poor diets and physical inactivity.
2. Infections such as viral (e.g. Hepatitis B Virus, Human Papilloma Virus) and bacterium (e.g. Helicobacter pylori).
3. Environmental pollution such as air pollution (e.g. tobacco smoke, smoke from domestic coal fire), water pollution (e.g. arsenic water), food contamination (e.g. aflatoxin, dioxin).
4. Occupational hazards that involve exposure to agents (e.g. asbestos) at the workplace.
5. Exposure to radiation such as ionizing radiation, radon gas and UV.

Am I at risk?
Yes you are. From the risk factors stated above, everyone is at risk regardless of age. However, age increases the incidence of cancer.

Wow! If everyone is at risk, can one prevent or reduce the burden of cancer?
Yes you can, through preventive actions and early detection. Here are ways to prevent and detect cancer early.

Preventive actions
a) Changing unhealthy behaviour - no smoking, safe use of alcohol, including more fruits and vegetables in the diet, cutting down on; salt intake, sugar intake, red/processed meat consumption, becoming physically active.
b) Getting vaccinated against the viral infection, avoiding unprotected sex, not having multiple sex partners, not sharing sharp objects (e.g. needles) with someone.
c) Avoiding smoking areas, using clean energy such as gas (LPG and biogas), electricity to cook, drinking treated water and ensuring the safety of food.
d) keeping the workplace safe and observing safety rules at the workplace.
e) Using clinically tested sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and if possible avoiding exposure to radiations.

Early Detection
f) Conducting self-examination to identify lumps, sores that fail to heal, abnormal bleeding, persistent indigestion, and chronic hoarseness.
g) Attending health centre for tests such as mammography and Pap smear.

Is there a cure for cancer?
Cancers can be treated but the success of the treatment often depends on early detection and accurate diagnosis. The main goal of treatment is to cure or prolong life. Improving the quality of life of the cancer patient, which often involves palliative care or psychological support, is also an important goal in cancer treatment. There are specific treatments for each type of cancer. See your health professional for advice.

As we mark World Cancer Day on 4th February, 2015 remember cancer is not beyond us and keep this acronym PDT (Prevent, Detect early and Treat cancer) in mind as you go through 2015

Get more tips from the book, Become A Healthier You.

Facts: WHO
Photo Credit: World Cancer Day

About contributor
Irene Danquah, ANutr holds a BSc Biochemistry from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana and an MSc Public Health Nutrition from the University of Southampton, UK. Irene is member of the UK Association for Nutrition (AfN) and the Ghana Nutrition Association. She is on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) as an Associate Nutritionist. Like the World Bank, Irene also believes "Nutrition is an investment issue and improved nutrition is one of the major drivers of economic growth - World Bank, 2006". 


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