What is Cancer and what causes it?
Cancer is a collection of over 100 diseases in which cells of an organ or tissue in the body become abnormal, growing and multiplying out of control. Normal cells grow and reproduce themselves throughout the body in an orderly and controlled manner to replace worn out tissue, to heal wounds, and to maintain healthy organs. When cells grow out of control, they usually form a mass, called a tumour.
Some tumours grow and enlarge only at the site where they begin and these are referred to as benign tumours. Others not only enlarge locally but also have the potential to invade and destroy surrounding normal tissue and to spread to distant parts of the body. These are called malignant tumours or cancers.
Distant spread of a cancer occurs when malignant cells become detached from the original (primary) tumour, get carried to other parts of the body and establish themselves in the new site as an independent (secondary) cancer. A tumour that has spread in this manner is said tohave metastasized and the secondary tumour (or tumours) is called a metastasis (or metastases).
NOTE: Not all cancers form solid tumours. For example, in cancer of the blood cells (leukaemia) many abnormal blood cells are made in the bone marrow and circulate in the bloodstream.
Cancer is NOT caused by witchcraft or any form of supernatural force. Cancer is a disease that can affect anyone, anywhere, in any country, at anytime. Cancer is a complex group of diseases with many possible causes.
Some of the known causes of cancer include:
- Genetic factors
- Lifestyle factors such as tobacco use, diet, physical inactivity;
- Certain types of infections. Some viruses are linked to certain cancers. E.g. those with persistent infection with the Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C virus have an increased risk of developing cancer of the liver.
- Environmental exposures to different types of chemicals and radiation.
- Age: The older you are, the more likely that you will develop a cancer. This is probably due to a build up of damage to cells in the body over time. Also, the body’s defences and resistance against abnormal cells may become weaker as you get older.
- Immune System: Those with a compromised immune system have an increased risk of developing certain cancers. E.g. people with HIV/AIDS, or people on immunosuppressive treatment.
Some myths/misconceptions about Cancer
- Cancer is a death sentence.
- Cancer is witchcraft.
- Cancer can be cured by herbal treatment.
- Nothing can be done to stop the further spread of cancer.
- Cancer is a punishment or curse from God caused by breaking some rules.
- A pregnant mother with cancer will automatically give birth to a child with cancer.
What can you do to dispel the myths and misconceptions about Cancer?
- Talk about Cancer! Talk to your friends, your neighbors, your children, your family members.
- Share this Cancer Resource Guide with your community – churches, schools, community centers!
- Contact your local clinic for testing. Use this Cancer Resource Guide to find information about a clinic near you. Don’t wait, act now!
- Talk to a dietician or nutritionist about specific foods to help you fight cancer!
- Let’s work together to get Cancer out of the dark and into the light! As a community, we can break the stigma of Cancer, and fight cancer together!