Cancer these days has become synonymous with grief akin to that felt with the impacts of wars witnessed all around the globe. Irrespective of what type of cancer, the impact on those directly affected remains that of both physical and psychological pain.
Like the HIV scourge of the late 80’s, Uganda is now seeing an increase in cases of cancer-related deaths. Given my visits to Uganda are often related to set personal projects, it hasn’t been possible for me to gauge data as to exactly why this increase is manifesting now. All that I can say is that the diagnostics are readily available in most cases. However, access to treatment and appropriate diet required following commencement of therapy in those that seek diagnostics, can be compounded due to lack of funds.
In some cases I’ve witnessed, persons will present with advanced symptoms of cancer after having first tried out local herbs from alternative persons passing themselves off as herbalists or medical doctors. In other cases, they’d have been under a misapprehension that they were being bewitched and thus sought help from spiritualists/religious pastors or witchdoctors. The end results being, that without early and concise diagnosis along with appropriate management, the disease matured such that by presentation to a major hospital, the patient is already weak and with compromised organs; and often without sufficient funds for the medication or diet required to stabilise let alone treat them.
What I do know and believe in is that preventive measures need to be taken. Interpersonal communication will definitely be an effective measure. I also feel awareness programmes regarding the symptoms of women who are at risk on different levels could be of great help. This is where mass communication media comes in to enable and facilitate the relevant awareness levels regarding such diseases. I focus on breast cancer, but there are plenty of chronic diseases that fall under this umbrella that can be prevented or managed at a primary level of direct community and or public engagement.
For my part, I’m kicking this off with breast cancer awareness and prevention.
Women who have menstruated early, with late or no pregnancies, late menopause, who have not breastfed their babies, are particularly at risk. However, please note that whilst most breast cancer is reported in women due to societal attention to the reproductive role of women, breast cancer does occur in men too. If there is a family history of cancer – your mother, sister, maternal aunt (Mother’s sister) or maternal grandmother (Mother’s Mother) – please treat it as an early warning sign.
• Learn and practice breast self-examination, and have mammograms as recommended by your gynaecologist.
• Evaluate diet, too much of fat in your diet is a certain culprit. Keep sugar* intake to a minimum – even honey. Selenium found in the soft bones of the fish, as well as whole grain food sources, protect against breast cancer.
• Exercise on regular basis.
*Data found to support other findings that impaired glucose metabolism may play a role in pancreatic cancer etiology. A diet high in glycemic load may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer in women who already have an underlying degree of insulin resistance.