Cancer can be beaten if diagnosed early enough or managed chronically to ensure a better quality of life for patients.
The technology exists to support cancer patients, but awareness and healthcare starts at home, said Janssen Medical Affairs Director, Moustafa Kamel. He said that while the twenty first century western lifestyle does play a role in the more frequent occurrence of the disease, personal health management plays a significant role in early detection and successful management.
Kamel noted that the growing incidences of cancer worldwide are rooted in two primary causes. The sedentary western lifestyle where processed foods and chemicals in products such as cleaning materials can trigger cancerous cell mutations. Kamel added: “Particularly in the west, the exposure to potential carcinogenic substances is broad. Whether it’s floor polish or something in your diet, a chemical in a substance that you consume, or inhale may be the trigger for a cell mutation that could cause cancer.”
At its opposite, the improvements in diagnostic technology that may now identify the occurrence of cancer in more people, where previously it was not possible for high accuracy.
He said that early detection is now more accurate, and ergo the ability to save lives and improve the quality of care and patients’ lives.
Kamel said: “It is imperative that as you get older, you go for health check-ups every six months, without fail. If a concern only arrives once symptoms surface, it may have been left too late.”
He said that there are five primary cancers in South Africa that are responsible for just over half of the incidents of the disease, and equally contribute as much to the mortality rate as a result. Kamel lists breast, prostate, cervical, lung and colorectal cancers as the culprits. He said: “And there are easily accessible tests available to test for each of these conditions. This should be part of every health check-up, especially for people over fifty years old.”
Early detection means better upfront treatment.
Kamel noted: “If we discover cancer as early as possible, while it is localised, it can be removed and then the patient may have a radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment regime. In some cases, it is curable. But unfortunately, if the cancer spreads outside the organ to the adjacent organ or to distant parts of the body, which we call metastasis, then the removal of cancer is difficult. And that’s why early diagnosis is important and affects the prognosis of the cancer.”
Kamel said that there is a genetic analysis test which helps in estimating the risk of different diseases for an individual lifetime, including cancers. He said: “But even in the absence of such testing, family history should provide a well enough guide to any individual to indicate possible predisposition for certain cancers.”
“In both instances, people must adjust lifestyle and habits to further avert risk”, Kamel concluded.