Back-to-School: Help your Children to Cope with Stress
January 15, 2020
The Mind-Body Connection and its Impact on Physical Health
February 5, 2020

Beating Cancer at its own Game

As the Cancer Association of South Africa’s slogan says, cancer CAN be beaten.

4 February is World Cancer Day, so now is the time to discuss this feared disease that has claimed the lives of many people. The good news is that there is more that you can do now to prevent and treat ‘The Big C’ in your life (and the lives of those you love) than there has ever been at any time in history.

Some 115,000 people in South Africa are diagnosed with cancer each year, and the survival rate is 60%. For men, the lifetime risk is 1:7, with the most significant cancers being prostate, colorectal, lung and Kaposi’s Sarcoma (a form of skin cancer). For women, the lifetime risk is 1:8, with the most significant cancers being breast, cervical, colorectal and uterine. Being a sunny country, South Africans should also watch out for skin cancer and melanomas.

The best way to beat cancer is to catch it early. Healthy eating and healthy living will help, and if there is a family history of cancer, patients should be especially attentive to early detection and treatment.

What are the warning signs of adult cancer?

CANSA lists these as the most prevalent warning signs – but these can also be caused by other illnesses. To be absolutely sure, have a chat with your doctor or specialist.

The first set of warning signs make up a handy acronym:

  • C= change in a wart or mole
  • A = any continued fever
  • N = nagging cough or continued hoarseness
  • C = chronic pain in the bones or any other area of the body
  • E = enduring fatigue, nausea or vomiting
  • R = repeated infection and/or inflammation

Other warning signals that should not be ignored include:

  • A change in bowel or bladder habits
  • A sore throat that does not heal
  • Unusual discharge or abnormal bleeding
  • Thickening lump in the breast, testicles or elsewhere
  • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
  • Obvious change in the size, colour, shape or thickness of a mole, wart or mouth sore
  • A noticeable loss of weight or loss of appetite

What are the warning signs of child cancer?

Always seek medical help early for ongoing symptoms. The following guidelines and warning signs apply for young ones:

  • A white spot in the eye, new squint, sudden blindness or bulging eyeball
  • Lump on the stomach, pelvis, head, arms, legs, testicle or glands
  • Unexplained fever present for over two weeks, weight loss, fatigue, pale appearance, easy bruising & bleeding
  • Aching bones, joints, back, or the presence of easy fractures
  • Neurological signs, a change in walk, balance or speech, regression, contiguous headaches with or without vomiting, and an enlarged head

Early detection: what are the most common types of screening and testing?

It’s important to pay attention to the signs and signals your body is sending you, as laid out above. Self-examination is most important, and if you suspect that something may be wrong, don’t delay in contacting your doctor to schedule one of these tests:

  • Breast cancer: clinical breast examinations, including mammograms
  • Cervical cancer: pap smear
  • Prostate cancer: antigen finger-prick blood test
  • Skin cancer: fotofinder mole-mapping machine
  • Lifestyle risk assessments

Let’s look at a few more gender-specific warning signs for the most common cancers in women and men.

For women: what are the signs of breast cancer?

In order to enable early detection and treatment, pay close attention to the following symptoms and signs on or near your breasts:

  • A puckering of the skin of the breast
  • A lump in the breast or armpit
  • A change in the skin around the nipple or discharge from the nipple
  • Dimpling of the nipple or nipple retraction
  • An unusual increase in the size of one breast
  • One breast unusually lower than the other; nipples at different levels
  • An enlargement of the glands
  • An unusual swelling in the armpit

Immediately schedule a doctor’s appointment if you see any of these warning signals.

For men: what are the signs of prostate cancer?

This type of cancer often has no early warning signals. If you’re over 40 and/or you have a history of cancer in your family, you should schedule an annual check-up with your doctor. Advancing prostate cancer has the following warning signals:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Straining to pass urine
  • Painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
  • Leaking urine
  • Bloody urine or semen
  • Very advanced cancer can cause deep pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs

Immediately schedule a doctor’s appointment if you see any of these warning signals.

Don’t wait until it’s too late before you take the necessary precautions for cancer. Look after your body.

If you are reading this, and you realise that you may have advanced stage cancer, do not become discouraged and lose hope. It’s important to get an informed medical opinion before you make any decisions. Don’t wait any longer to get help, and make a commitment to living the best life that you possibly can. Remember, we all eventually pass on, so make the most of the time that you still have. The fact that you are still reading means that your life’s journey is not yet complete.

For more information please contact:

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA)
Telephone: +27 800 22 66 22
Email: info@cansa.org.za

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.