Posted in: cancer, cancer research

10 things you should know about cancer

What is cancer? To carry out body functions, our bodies need cells( tiny units of the human body). These cells grow and multiply to better perform most body functions. 

However, when these cells grow and multiply out of control, and in an abnormal manner, then they can form a tumor, which can be malignant (meaning the tumor is cancerous) or benign ( which means it’s a tumor but not cancerous).

What are the most common cancers in Kenya?

All body parts have cells, which means that cancer can start in any part of the body. Common causes of cancers in men include prostate cancer, esophageal cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and in women cervical cancer, breast cancer, gastric/stomach cancer, and esophageal cancer.

IMPORTANT: with early diagnosis, there’s definitely going to be a good prognosis.

What is metastasis?

This basically means that cancer can spread from the originally affected part to other parts of the body, for example when cancer starts at the esophagus, it can metastasize to the lungs, it however does not then become lung cancer, but remains esophageal cancer. The name given to the type of cancer totally depends on the first affected part of the body and that is why as a patient or a caregiver, you must let your doctor explain the type of cancer you have in detail.

What causes cancer?

For many years now, research and studies have been done, but there is no specific cause that we can point our fingers at. However, we do have very many risk factors that can predispose us to various types of cancers. Some of the risk factors like smoking, taking too much alcohol, a lack of exercise, and poor eating habits are easily modifiable, others like age, gender, and family genetic history are non-modifiable. This, therefore, means that 

cancer is not a curse.

Can you inherit Cancer/ is cancer contagious?

We’ve already understood that cancer develops when cells grow and multiply in an uncontrollable and abnormal manner. These abnormal cells can be inherited from a parent which makes it possible for you to get a certain type of cancer from your parents. However, you can’t get cancer from sharing space, food, or environment, it’s therefore not contagious.

What are the signs and symptoms of cancer?

Different types of cancers will definitely present in different ways. In most cases, when the symptoms are realized early, especially for breast, cervical, and prostate cancers, they will be a good prognosis.

Common signs and symptoms include;

  1. Unintentional weight loss.
  2. Severe and unexplained pain in any part of the body.
  3. Changes in your skin color and tone.
  4. Frequently feeling sick.
  5. Presence of a lump or swelling in any part of the body.
  6. Extreme body weakness, that occurs often.
  7. Unexplained bleeding through stool or even coughing.

How is a cancer diagnosis made?

In most cases, cancer can be diagnosed through a biopsy, a procedure that involves the removal of a piece from the lump, which is then tested under a microscope. Other scans like the CT scan, or blood tests can also be recommended for staging and determination of a possible treatment.

Let your healthcare provider explain the type of cancer you have, what stage it is at, and the best options for treatment.

What is the treatment for cancer?

An appropriate form of treatment can be determined well by your doctor with these factors in mind;

  1. What is the type?
  2. What is the stage?
  3. What is your general body condition, age, or even existing medical conditions?

The most common treatment methods include;

  • Surgery; to take off the tumor.
  • Chemotherapy; are drugs that can be taken orally or intravenously to kill cancer cells or reduce their growth.
  • Radiotherapy; is a method of treatment that also focuses on killing most of the cancer cells or reducing their growth and can be used alongside chemotherapy or surgery.

What are the side effects of treatment?

 The most common side effects of treatment especially chemotherapy may include;

  1.  Nausea and vomiting.
  2.  Loss of appetite.
  3.  Sores in the mouth.
  4.  Extreme fatigue.
  5.  Hair loss can be temporary.
  6.  Anemia.

How can you manage pain related to cancer?

Pain can easily be controlled and when controlled, it can make life a little bit easier. You can help manage the pain by doing this;

  1.  Participating in fun activities like dancing.
  2.  Taking warm baths can always make you feel better.
  3.  Taking lots and lots of fluids and keeping hydrated at all times.
  4.  If you are a caregiver, it’s important to learn the signs of pain from your patient.
  5.  Keep a good record of your pain medication.
  6.  Join a support group.

Nutrition management.

Besides understanding Cancer and all its modes of treatment, nutrition also plays a very huge role.

Importance of good nutrition;

  • Will help maintain a healthy weight, preventing malnutrition.
  • Will help to deal with side effects related to treatment like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Lowers your risk of infections.
  • Faster recovery period especially after chemotherapy.

Proteins.

A high-protein diet is always recommended in order to speed up wound healing, and tissue repair and also aid in fighting infections. Proteins from both animals and plants are encouraged. Lean meats, fish, eggs, lentils, green grams, beans, and even milk products and nuts are highly recommended in each meal.

Fats and oils.

For a healthy lifestyle, we often recommend healthy sources of fats and unsaturated vegetable oils as compared to saturated solid fats which can only bring more problems.

Carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates are highly recommended because they are highly nutritious as compared to refined sugars from fast foods like biscuits, cakes, and sodas which are highly discouraged. Eat less processed foods.

Vitamins and minerals.

We need to boost the body’s immunity status, hence more Fruits and vegetables are recommended, at least 5 portions every day. Like Sukuma wiki, cabbage, cowpea leaves, and pumpkin leaves. Other sources of vitamins like B vitamins can be found in animal source protein.

Water.

Hydration is important, with at least 8 glasses of water every day in addition to healthy fluids. This can also be important for replacing the fluids lost in vomiting and diarrhoea to prevent dehydration.

How will you maintain good nutrition?

  1. Eat big meals when you feel most hungry.
  2. Eat small frequent meals, even when not hungry to build up your stores.
  3. Take healthy snacks often between your main meals 
  4. Take high-energy and high-protein drinks often.
  5. Drink lots and lots of water.

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