Everyone fears cancer for its ability to drown the body and the soul in illness and pain.
Yes it kills. Yes it burdens. Yes it hurts. But YES also to the fact that many cancers can be prevented. YES also to the fact that many cancers can be detected early. And YES also to the fact many cancers can be survived.
Know that cancer-protecting mechanisms are present in the body. They help prevent cancer from occurring.
Physical fitness, proper stress management and a healthy diet are all factors that could strengthen the body’s cancer-protecting mechanisms and thus aid in winning the battle against the big C.
Healthy diet means high-carbohydrate, low fat, low salt and low in free sugar with of course a substantial amount of fruits and vegetables. Physical fitness on the other hand involves discipline in maintaining the body in shape, preventing obesity thus decreasing the incidence of illness that comes with sedentary lifestyle. Physically fit people are often confident and able to cope well with stress, another factor linked to cancer.
I began the article in the tone of hope to raise spirits to fight the deadly disease that kills dozens of Filipinos every day.
Read on and contemplate on the top cancers among Filipinos, their incidence, mortality and most of all prevention.
The Philippines is now reported to have the highest incidence of breast cancer in all of Asia with an estimate of 1 out of 13 Filipinas predicted to develop cancer in their lifetime. Women’s change in reproductive behaviour is believed to be a major factor to the steady rise in this deadly but preventable type of cancer.
To explain further, women prone to breast cancer are those who have not borne any child, who bore her first child at the age of 30 and beyond and those who had an early menarche and late menopause. The reason behind these risk factors is the length of exposure to the hormone estrogen, the hormone present in both males and females that is responsible for the development of female sex characteristics.
Due to the westernization of the Filipino way of life, more and more women are choosing to start a family at a later age, preferring a blooming career to domestic life.
However, note again that breast cancer is a preventable form of cancer. Women prone should perform monthly breast self-examination a few days after menstruation when the breast is least tender and report any abnormal changes observed such as changes in shape, lumps, dimpling and abnormal discharges.
This practice should be done in adjunct to clinical breast examination and mammography depending on you age and risk factors. Women at age 50 and beyond are advised to undergo mammography yearly. However, the major hindrance of early breast cancer detection among Filipinos is the cost of the tests. Many choose to forego check ups for lack of finances.
If breast cancer is more common among women, lung cancer is more prevalent in men because of TOBACCO SMOKE. While a lot of women are active as well as passive smokers too, more men are still into what they opine to be a stress-busting habit.
Next to breast CA, lung cancer remains to be the 2nd most common site of cancer for both men and women in the Philippines. This cancer is deadly because of the absence of an early detection method. However, the warning signs one should watch for are persistent cough and other respiratory symptoms, blood streaked sputum, chest pain, hoarseness of voice, weakness and weight loss.
Liver cancer ranks 2nd among males and 6th among females in terms of common cancer sites in the Philippines in 2010. Nationwide, an incidence rate of 10.6 per 100, 000 population was recorded. Survival after diagnosis is 5 years and up. However, as in lung cancer, there is no method for early detection and diagnosis except for the warning signs: abdominal pain, loss of appetite and weight loss especially in people diagnosed with liver cirrhosis or is an HBV carrier.
Liver cancer can be prevented by vaccination against the hepatitis virus, prevention of exposure with proper precaution especially among health professionals and avoidance or restriction of alcohol intake.
Colorectal cancer is now 4th in the Philippines in terms of incidence. About 8, 000 cases are being diagnosed every year in the country.
In 2008, age-standardized incidence rates for colon and rectum cancer were 10.0 among males and 7.3 among females. In this type of cancer, genetics play as a major risk factor. Other risk factors include: polyps in the colon or rectum, inflammatory bowel disease or any changes in bowel habits such as blood in the stool. Also to watch out for are unexplained weight loss and anemia.
Because, colon cancer is asymptomatic, care must be done in observing for symptoms mentioned in the above paragraph. Diagnosis of this type of cancer can be done through digital rectal exam and the various visualization procedure of the colon such as colonoscopy. Once diagnosed early, colorectal cancer is one of the most curable forms of caner.
Uterine Cervix Cancer
Cervical cancer awareness in the Philippines is heightened the past few years because of high incidence and mortality despite it being very preventable. Women with multiple partners or with partners who have multiple partners are prone to infection by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the major causative factor of cervical cancer. Vaccination is encouraged in as early as adolescent age. However, cervical cancer vaccination is a little bit expensive for the common Filipino that coverage is not yet high.
For screening, Pap Smear or Papanicolau smear is effective in detecting abnormalities in cells that warrants further analysis.
Cancer is a most dreaded enemy of man. It steals resources, it steals happiness, it steals lives. But, cancer like any other disease comes as a challenge to all mankind to change his ways, to love more, to give more, to be a better version of himself – to act responsibly, to be disciplined for himself and all mankind. Together, we may not completely eradicate cancer. But together, we can fight our way through. We can prevent, we can detect early and make the most of our resources – material and non-material – to support one another in this war against the big C.