Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cancer is not always the crab

Dear Friends,
Recently it really felt that it was deja vu all over again. News that the mother of someone close I know, who was not well after just returning from a Japan business trip. The signs were breathing difficulties and bloating of her hands which was abnormal. I was taken back almost immediately down my childhood days. My late dad had also returned from a London business trip. I remember him lying down with us on the floor and calling my mum on the telephone at her workplace. It was all nice and loving at that time and the memories still lingers after these many years. How do I equate both these situations? They have both suffered the same fate - CANCER. How coincidental?

Cancer is the general name for a group of more than a hundred diseases in which cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control. Cancer cells develop because of damage to the DNA. This substance is in every cell and directs all of the cell's activities. People can inherit damaged DNA which accounts for inherited cancers. Many times though, a person's DNA gets damaged by things in the environment like chemicals, viruses, tobacco smoke or too much sunlight. Cancer cells keep growing and dividing, they are different from normal cells. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and continue to grow and make new abnormal cells. Cancer usually forms as a tumor. Some cancers, like leukemia do not form tumors. Instead, these cancer cells involve the blood and blood forming organs and circulate through other tissues where they grow. Cancer cells often travel through bloodstream or through the lymph system to other parts of the body where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue.

Cancer is a group of diseases that may cause almost any sign or symptom. The signs and symptoms will depend on where the cancer is, the size of the cancer and how much it affects the nearby organs or structures. If a cancer spreads, then symptoms may appear in different parts of the body. As cancer grows, it begins to push on nearby organs, blood vessels and nerves. This pressure creates some of the signs and symptoms of cancer.

Sometimes cancers start in places where it does not cause any symptoms until the cancer has grown quite large. This is the fate of Aunty Daisy diagnosed with pancreas cancer which has also spread to the liver. Pancreas cancer do not usually grow large enough to be felt from the outside of the body. Some pancreatic cancers do not cause symptoms until they begin to grow around nearby nerves. Others grow around the bile duct which blocks the flow of bile and leads to a yellowing of the skin known as jaundice. By the time pancreatic cancer causes these signs or symptoms, it has usually reached an advanced stage.

Treatment is most successful when cancer is found as early as possible. Finding cancer early usually means it can be treated while it is still small and is less likely to have spread to other parts of the body. This often means a better chance for cure especially if initial treatment is to be surgery. The number of treatment choices you have will depend on the type of cancer and other individual factors such as age, health status and personal preferences. The four major types of treatment are surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and biologic therapies. The cancer's stage and how widespread it is will also determine the best course of treatment, since early stage cancers respond to different therapies than later stage ones.

Today, millions of people are living with cancer or have had cancer. The risk of developing most types of cancer can be reduced by changes in a person's lifestyle, for example, by quitting smoking, limiting time in the sun, being physically active and having a balanced diet. The sooner a cancer is found and treated, the better the chances are for living for many years.

My dad succumbed to liver cancer 33 years ago in an era without chemotherapy. With developed medical technologies these days, I can only pray that a solution be discovered soon for the sake of mankind. Aunty Daisy; be encouraged, stay strong and believe. The bible teaches us that we have a Lord that healeth thee. With faith, nothing is impossible.
** Aunty Daisy was called home by the Lord on the 30th January 2009 @ 3.25pm after a four month battle with cancer. Rest in Peace.

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