Eat healthy, live healthy, know your body

Engage, ask questions, help break stigmas and take hands to fight cancer.

11 August 2019 | Health

The Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) hosts the Cancer Awareness Week during the first week of August every year, and 2019 was no different. In this time, CAN invites Namibians from all walks of life to engage, ask questions, help break the stigmas and take hands to fight cancer and support those afflicted by the disease.



What is cancer?

The term refers to a group of diseases. Although there are over 200 regularly defined types of cancer, all cancers are characterised by abnormal cell growth. If left untreated, this disease can lead to death.



How does cancer start?

Your body is made up of trillions of living cells. Within each cell are genes that control and direct the cell's functions. Normal cells continuously grow and divide. Over time, they die and are replaced by new ones. In most people, this natural cell replacement occurs in an orderly and organised manner. However, this process sometimes breaks down. Unlike normal healthy cells, cancer cells do not die. Instead, they continue to grow and divide in an uncontrollable manner. These defective cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumour.



What are tumours?

Tumours can be benign or malignant. Tumours that stay in one place and do not spread to other parts of the body are considered as being benign. These are not cancerous and are rarely life-threatening although they can sometimes cause problems, especially when they grow too big. On the other hand, malignant tumours can destroy and invade other normal tissues in your body, making you sick. However, not all types of cancer form tumours. For instance, tumours are uncommon in leukaemia. These are cancers that typically start in the bone marrow and enter the bloodstream.



How does cancer spread?

Cancer cells can spread when they migrate to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems, forming new tumours. This process is called metastases. Even when cancer spreads, it is always named based on where it first occurred. For instance, cancer that begins in the breast is called breast cancer. If it spreads to other parts of the body, like the liver or bone, it is called metastatic breast cancer. With so many different ­cancers, it is important for you to know which type of cancer you have so that you can receive the right treatment.



Busting myths

Myth 1: We don't need to talk about cancer.

Truth: Whilst cancer can be a difficult topic to address, particularly in some cultures and settings, dealing with the disease openly can improve outcomes at an individual, community and policy level.

Myth 2: There are no signs or symptoms of cancer.

Truth: For many cancers there are warning signs and symptoms and the benefits of early detection are indisputable.

Myth 3: There is nothing I can do about cancer.

Truth: There is a lot that can be done at an individual, community and policy level and with the right strategies, a third of the most common cancers can be prevented.

Myth 4: I don't have the right to cancer care.

Truth: All people have the right to access proven and effective cancer treatments and services on equal terms. In Namibia cancer patients can contact the Cancer Association of Namibia to guide them to the correct medical assistance.

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