Did you know that 17 people die every minute from cancer globally? As a result, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and is responsible for close to 10 million deaths annually. Astonishingly these figures are more than HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis combined. That’s not just it, experts project that cancer deaths will rise to 13 million by 2030 if we do not act now.
It is out of these deadly statistics that the World Cancer Day came to be on the 4th of February 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer in Paris. This year’s theme, “I am, and I will” acknowledges that everyone can address the cancer menace.
World Cancer Day is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the largest international cancer organization. Its main aim is to unite the world in the fight against cancer. Besides, on this day, World Cancer Day Organization aims to save millions of preventable cancer deaths each year through education, raising awareness and impressing upon various stakeholders to take action.
Now let’s bring this closer home, shall we? WHO says that 70% of all cancer deaths occur in low and medium-income countries. Specifically, these households are mostly found in Africa and Asia. In fact, in Sub-Saharan Africa where you are likely to find a number of these low- and medium-income countries, the cancer incidence burden is rising and may jump up-to 85%. Indeed, it is emerging that the total annual economic cost of cancer is about US$1.16 trillion globally.
In Kenya for example, the figures are heartbreaking. The annual incidence of cancer is about 28 000 new cases with an annual mortality of 22 000 cases. This means that sadly, 78.5% do not survive.
With this in mind, and as we celebrate the World Cancer Day it is important that we look at the different types of cancer that affect the human being. There are various types of cancer caused by various factors and affecting both genders differently. The most prevalent cancer in women is breast cancer and cervical cancer. In men, the cancer of the esophagus and prostate are the most common.
What causes cancer
Cancer occurs when normal cells in the body lead to uncontrolled and abnormal growth forming a tumor. If left untreated, the tumors can grow and spread into the surrounding normal tissue, or to other parts of the body.
Research shows that one-third of deaths from cancer are due to behavioral and dietary risks. Some of these risks include:
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol use
- Overweight and obesity
- Dietary factors, including insufficient fruit and vegetable intake
- Lack of physical activity.
- Chronic infections such as from h pylori, and some types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
- Environmental and occupational risks including ionizing and non-ionizing radiation
Cancer in Men
As mentioned earlier, prostate and oesophagus cancer are the most common types of cancer in men.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these two types of cancer account for 17.4% and 14.4% respectively of all cancers in men.
- Prostate Cancer
While it is the most prevalent cancer in men, prostate cancer is very much treatable in the early stages. Globally, 1 in 9 males will receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer at some point in their life. However, only 1 in 41 of these will die as a result of it.
The risk of prostate cancer increases with age with the risk higher after age 50. Incidentally, prostate cancer is common in black males as compared to White, Asian and Hispanic males. Male with close relatives with a history of prostate cancer have a higher chance of getting prostate cancer.
Major Symptoms and signs of prostate cancer include:
- Frequent urination
- Weak or interrupted urine flow or the need to strain to empty the bladder
- The urge to urinate frequently at night
- Blood in the urine
- New onset of erectile dysfunction
- Pain or burning during urination
- Discomfort or pain when sitting, caused by an enlarged prostate
- Oesophagus Cancer
This is another common cancer that affects mostly men. Oesophagus cancer affects the oesophagus, the long hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. It can occur at any part of the oesophagus and it is predominantly found in men than women.
Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide
Main symptoms of esophagus cancer include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss without trying
- Chest pain, pressure or burning
- Worsening indigestion or heartburn
- Coughing or hoarseness
Cancer in Women
- Cervical Cancer
It is the leading type of cancer in women accounting for 17.1%. It occurs most often in women over age 30. Long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer.
It is estimated that 3000 women in Kenya were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014. Consequently, if proper measures are not put in place to prevent, control, or even create awareness among women in Kenya, this number could rise to 4,261 cases annually by 2025.
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), Cervical cancer has various symptoms which include:
- Blood spots or light bleeding between or following periods
- Menstrual bleeding that is longer and heavier than usual
- Bleeding after intercourse
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bleeding after menopause
- Unexplained, persistent pelvic and/or back pain
- Breast Cancer
This type of cancer develops in breast cells and forms either in the lobules or duct of the breast and accounts for 13.8%. of cancer cases in women.
Like women, men too can get breast cancer though rare. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), breast cancer is 100 times less common in white men than in white women, and 70 times less common in black men than in black women.
Major symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Breast pain
- Swelling of the breast
- Lump or swelling around your breast
- Lump or swelling under your arm among others.
Cancer diagnosis and screening
In general, when cancer care is delayed or inaccessible there is a lower chance of survival. Therefore, this leads to complications in treatment and a high cost of care. This means that to reduce the high mortality rate, diagnosis and screening is done early enough.
For breast cancer, the most common method of screening is through a mammograms. However, if any abnormality is detected a biopsy is undertaken which a definitive way to make a diagnosis of breast cancer. For cervical cancer, this can be done through a pap test and a HPV DNA test. For prostate cancer, a physical examination may be undertaken and also include other diagnostics tests. A biopsy is also recommended to verify absolutely if there is cancer.
In conclusion, as we celebrate World Cancer Day it is good to note that we can save up to 3.7 million lives if only we take action to prevent cancer early enough. As a result, our actions both big or small are capable of creating a cancer-free world. Therefore, let us embrace this year’s theme Ï am and I will”0