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Cancer: My story, not my obituary (Part 1) - Zimbabwe Today
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Cancer: My story, not my obituary (Part 1)


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Sihlesenkosi Mkondo Correspondent
We are in the month of October, which is known as the Breast Cancer month. A lot of activities and events are scheduled to bring breast cancer awareness to everybody. It is recognised as such in most countries of the world.

This article will bring clarity on certain issues and myths about cancer in general and breast cancer in particular.

What is Cancer?

Cancer, has been described as “the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells anywhere in a body”. In the most basic terms, cancer occurs when some cells grow out of control and invade other tissues. In some cases, the cells may become cancerous when damaged cells grow, divide, and spread abnormally instead of self-destructing as they should. Healthy cells generally self-repair if damaged.

An overview of cancer in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe records over 7 000 new cancer cases annually and about 2 000 cancer-related deaths. The most prevalent cases for women are breast and cervical cancer, constituting 1 886 and 3 186 new cases reported, respectively in 2018. There were 886 and 2 151 deaths recorded from these cancers during that period.

In men, it is prostate cancer and Kaposi sarcoma that are prevalent with 1 299 and 1 566 new cases recorded in 2018. There are various other cancers, which make up about 43 percent of all cancers while the four mentioned above make up the balance.

What causes cancer?

Causes of cancer are many, but generally anything that may cause a normal body cell to develop abnormally can potentially cause cancer. In Zimbabwe the surge in cancer cases has been attributed mainly to lifestyle and changes in diets. According to researchgate.com poor diets are the leading cause of cancers (35 percent), followed by use of tobacco (30 percent), excess exposure to sunlight (10 percent), other causes (hereditary, for example), viruses (7 percent) occupational factors (4 percent) alcohol (3 percent) and radiation (1 percent).

Cancer symptoms and signs

Cancer symptoms and signs depend on the specific type and grade of cancer; although general signs and symptoms are not very specific, the following can be found in patients with different cancers: fatigue, weight loss, pain, skin changes, change in bowel or bladder function, unusual bleeding, persistent cough or voice change, fever, lumps, or tissue masses.

Cancer diagnosis and staging

Although there are many tests to screen and presumptively diagnose cancer, the definite diagnosis is made by examination of a biopsy sample of suspected cancer tissue.

Cancer staging is often determined by biopsy results and helps determine the cancer type and the extent of cancer spread. Most cancers are staged one to four with the higher number indicative of a more aggressive cancer type or greater spread of the cancer in the body. Staging the cancer spread also helps medical practitioners and caregivers determine treatment protocols.

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Sihlesenkosi Mkondo is a researcher at Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) and cancer advocate.

Source :

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