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Vital Signs: Cancer stigma, myths are harmful

2021-10-28  Paheja Siririka

Vital Signs: Cancer stigma, myths are harmful
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Paheja Siririka

The Cancer Association of Namibia said there is a lot of stigma surrounding cancer, which has become a big issue in women with breast cancer as they associate the illness with death.

The chief executive officer of CAN Rolf Hansen said fear of death or the unknown and emotional trauma are some of the issues most women battle with, accompanied by financial problems.

“Women remain more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Namibia and continue to make up to an average exceeding 54% of all cancer cases and it is the number one form of cancer among women in Namibia. Most women diagnosed are older than 40. However, breast cancer can also occur in younger women and men,” Hansen told Vital Signs.

Although invasive ductal breast cancer is the prominent type, other types include ductal breast cancer, mixed tumour breast cancer, mucinous breast cancer and lobular breast cancer.

CAN, in cooperation with the community, fights cancer and its consequences countrywide to the benefit of all Namibians by supporting research; health education and information; as well as care and support services. 

“The main aim is to educate the general public regarding the prevention, early detection and dangers of cancer,” said Hansen.

He added: “The mandate is an ongoing process, but there is some evident change in perceptions towards cancer. And it remains our priority to fight cancer and eventually bring the numbers down on this dreadful disease.”


Stages of cancer

Carcinoma in situ is sometimes called stage zero cancer or in situ neoplasm. It means that there is a group of abnormal cells in an area of the body. 

The cells may develop into cancer at some time in the future. The changes in the cells are called dysplasia. The number of abnormal cells is too small to form a tumour.

Stage one usually means that a cancer is relatively small and contained within the organ it started in.

Stage two usually means that the tumour is larger than in stage one, but cancer has not started to spread into the surrounding tissues. Sometimes stage two means that cancer cells have spread into lymph nodes close to the tumour. This depends on the particular type of cancer.

Stage three usually means the cancer is larger. It may have started to spread into surrounding tissues and there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes in the area.

Stage four means cancer has spread from where it started to another organ. This is also called secondary or metastatic cancer.


Cancer treatment in Namibia


Treatment of cancer largely depends on where the cancer is, how big it is, whether it has spread, and the person’s overall health. CAN urges cancer patients to comprehend the treatment and the side effects, which can help with the coping of the terminal illness.

Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, cancer drugs, bone marrow or stem cell transplant, targeted cancer drugs, immunotherapy, are some of the treatments administered in treating cancer.

Hormone therapy is also one of them as it blocks or lowers the amount of hormones in the body to stop or slow down the growth of cancer.


Cancer myths

There is a myth that cell phones, computers and microwave ovens cause cancer through radiation. CAN debunk this, stating that cell phones, computers and microwave ovens only use low-frequency radio waves that do not damage your genes and cause cancer.

There is a myth stating only smokers get lung cancer, while in fact while smokers may have a very high risk of suffering from lung cancer, they are not the only ones. Your genetic make-up or family history can affect your risk of getting lung cancer. 

CAN states exposure to substances such as asbestos, radon, uranium, arsenic and second-hand smoke can also increase the chance of developing lung cancer. There are also cases of lung cancer caused by scarring in the lung tissue due to previous illnesses and/or infections.


2021-10-28  Paheja Siririka

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