Are You Breast Cancer Aware? By Ifeanyi Iloba

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. But there are other forms of cancer that we all should be aware of.

Cancer can start in any part of the body. It begins when cells grow out of control and crowd out other cells. This creates a disruption and makes it hard for the body to work the way it should. Cancer can be treated very well for many people, all that is needed is early detection and diagnosis. In fact, more people than ever before lead full lives after cancer treatment.
There are other types/forms of Cancer.
There are many types of cancer. It’s not just one disease. Cancer can start in the lungs, the breast, the tongue, the pancreas, the prostate, the colon, or even in the blood. Cancers are similar in some ways, but they are different in the ways they grow and spread.
How are cancers similar?

The cells in our bodies all have certain jobs to do: getting water, nutrients, blood supply, neural signals, oxygen and food to the various parts of the body. Normal cells divide in an orderly way. They die when they are worn out or damaged, and new cells take their place. Cancer is when the cells start to grow out of control. The cancer cells keep on growing and making new cells. They crowd out normal cells. This causes problems in the part of the body where the cancer started.

Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body. For instance, cancer cells in the lung can travel to the bones and grow there. When cancer cells spread, it’s called metastasis. When lung cancer spreads to the bones, it’s still called lung cancer. To doctors, the cancer cells in the bones look just like the ones from the lung. It’s not called bone cancer unless it started in the bones.

How are cancers different?

Some cancers grow and spread fast. Others grow more slowly. They also respond to treatment in different ways. Some types of cancer are best treated with surgery; others respond better to drugs called chemotherapy. Often 2 or more treatments are used to get the best results.

When someone has cancer, the doctor will find out what kind of cancer it is. People with cancer need treatment that works for their type of cancer and what their bodies can handle.

How is cancer treated?

The most common treatments for cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Surgery can be used to take out the cancer. The doctor might also take out some or all of the body part the cancer affects. For breast cancer, part (or all) of the breast might be removed. For prostate cancer, the prostate gland might be taken out. Surgery is not used for all types of cancer. For example, blood cancers like leukemia are best treated with drugs.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. Some chemotherapy can be given by IV (into a vein through a needle), and others are a pill you swallow. Because chemotherapy drugs travel to nearly all parts of the body, they are useful for cancer that has spread.

Radiation is also used to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. It can be used alone or with surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation treatment is like getting an x-ray. Sometimes it’s given by putting a “seed” inside the cancer to give off the radiation.

Why did/is this happening to me?

People with cancer often ask, “What did I do wrong?” or “Why me?” Doctors don’t know for sure what causes cancer. When doctors can’t give a cause, people may come up with their own ideas about why it happened.

Some people think they’re being punished for something they did or didn’t do in the past. Most people wonder if they did something to cause the cancer.

If you’re having these feelings, you’re not alone. Thoughts and beliefs like this are common for people with cancer. You need to know that cancer is not a punishment for your past actions. Try to not blame yourself or focus on looking for ways you might have prevented cancer. Cancer is not your fault, and there’s almost never a way to know whether or not someone will have cancer so don’t blame yourself, just look on the bright side of life.

What’s the way forward?

For breast cancer, doing a self examination, looking out for lumps, discolouration and discharge from the nipples when not pregnant or breastfeeding would be great. Also, taking care of oneself, meeting with the doctor regularly for a full body examination, always get a second opinion on cancerous diagnosis and take care to eat healthy, exercise and have a healthy work-life balance.

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