Have you observed that a lot more women are living decent lives with cancer than previously? A couple of months ago I was opportune to visit a reputable privately-owned Cancer Centre in the city and held fascinating conversations with patients, four of which are showcased in today’s write-up.
Ebhaide is a 53-year-old Investment banker who has access to Free Medicals courtesy of her employer. As a result, she never slacked on her annual check-up and had cultivated a habit of self-examining her breasts monthly over the past twenty years. However, her last mammogram during her annual check-up had thrown up certain irregularities which called for further tests. At the end of the tests, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was devastated but with the right counseling, she was placed on a combination treatment of Hormone Therapy and radiotherapy, which was well tolerated by her, given that the cancer cells had not spread beyond the breast tissue. She was being managed and had visited for her quarterly follow-up. In her own words, “I am still active at work and socially, boosting my health with dietary supplements and exercise”.
Belinda on her part is a 35-year-old entrepreneur who runs a beauty parlor and lost her mother to cervical cancer about four years ago. She explained “Immediately after her passing, I did my first pap smear to test for cervical cancer. The second was done last year and some irregular cells were found. Further tests revealed the presence of cancer cells in my cervix and a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy was recommended by the Oncologist. I have since commenced treatment and I am currently undergoing my last week of radiotherapy. Although I experienced some reactions to the treatment, these were well managed by medication”.
Amina’s is a case of Stage 3 breast cancer discovered at age 61. She is a homemaker and grandmother. She had never done breast examinations and mammograms, or other tests were never done. She realised that the soreness in her breasts had become worse over the years with smelly discharge from the nipples. By the time she was examined by the family doctor and after a series of tests, she was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread into her lymph nodes. Consequently, she had to have a mastectomy coupled with chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. She continues to give Allah thanks for sparing her life and believes she will be preserved until it is His will to call her to him.
For 24-year-old Duro, recently diagnosed with Ovarian cancer, she is thankful to God and the facility for saving her life. Her story…” I had done regular self breast-examination and was conscious of breast and cervical cancer but had never heard of ovarian cancer. I realised something was wrong when I was consistently losing weight, feeling bloated and noticed a difference in the pattern and intensity of my monthly periods. After a series of tests, an MRI, and a bone scan, I was queried for ovarian cancer. Surgery was scheduled to remove one of my ovaries and the fallopian tube. The biopsy done on the ovary revealed cancer cells which luckily, had not spread, and I was placed on a regimen of radiotherapy.”
It is heartwarming to know that the Big C is no longer a death sentence but the key to overcoming it is early detection. Like any other disease, it can be managed and controlled making for a fruitful life. There are however some important takeaways to learn from this:
- Education regarding Cancers is important for all classes of women particularly those over 21 years.
- Self Breast examination and periodic screening through mammograms and pap smears help in no small measure in the early diagnosis of cancers and proper cancer containment/management.
- Of the three cancers common to women above described, Ovarian cancer cannot be caught through screening, therefore making it the deadliest. You must watch out for strange signs and symptoms and as women, anything that disrupts or changes the menstrual flow requires medical attention.
- HIV-positive persons are susceptible to cervical cancers but are subject to the same screening and treatment procedures with relative success.
- Thermoscans have been touted as an alternative to mammograms in the detection of breast cancer, however, it would appear that mammograms are more effective in early detection.
It is important to note also that this write-up has considered ONLY Conventional treatment. There are however three types of treatment available:
- Integrative (a combined approach)
CHEMOTHERAPY – The use of cytotoxic, chemical substances and other drugs to treat diseases, especially cancer.
HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus which damages the body’s immune system to fight diseases.
HORMONE THERAPY – Suppression or blockage of the hormones, estrogen, and progesterone, in the treatment of cancer.
HYSTERECTOMY – Removal of all or part of the uterus.
MAMMOGRAM – A set of x-rays done on each breast to detect and evaluate breast tumours that cannot be detected by feel.
MASTECTOMY – Surgery to remove parts or the whole breast.
THERMOSCAN – Using digital infrared thermal imaging to detect breast cancer.