Reduce cancer risk

2016-01-27 06:00
Oncologist at Amanzimtoti Oncology Centre, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld. Photo: supplied

Oncologist at Amanzimtoti Oncology Centre, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld. Photo: supplied

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NEXT month, on 4 February, is World Cancer Day and for the next two years the focus on this day will be to encourage actions that all can take to help reduce a risk of cancer, achieve greater equity in cancer care and make fighting cancer a priority at the highest political levels.

Oncologist at Amanzimtoti Oncology Centre, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, highlighted the importance of early detection to help reduce the risk of cancer death.

“We follow international guidelines when it comes to screening for cancer, although these guidelines often change as new research surfaces.
“I will write a column to update our readers what the newest recommendations are. The golden rule in combating cancer remains - if it’s picked up early, cancer can be curable.”

He said the most frustrating and heart-rendering situation is if a patient and/or a doctor were aware of potentially harmful growths and have not acted quickly.

“Waiting for an appointment to see your GP first doesn’t have to be the reason for a delay.

“With today’s technology and treatment options, cancer, like diabetes, doesn’t have to be seen as a terminal illness.
“Even if it’s incurable [diabetes is also incurable] it can still be managed as a chronic condition with the appropriate treatment, positive attitude, a good support system and a healthy lifestyle.
“I don’t believe in saying to my patients there’s nothing more to be done. There is always something that can be done,” he said.

A fear that might delay cancer detection is that cancer equals pain.
“Some cancer, for example ovarian cancer, may present as a painless abdominal swelling, and lymphoma can show itself as a painless lymph node [gland]. The important message is that all swellings or glands aren’t always cancer, but if it remains or enlarges after a week or two of appropriate treatment, it should be investigated further.

“In other instances, pain can be the first symptom that something is not right. Trust your gut - don’t just settle with the first opinion if the pain persists.
“Pursue a second opinion, and pursue caring,” Dr Van Jaarsveld advises.

Other general symptoms to watch for include unexplained fever or night sweats, rectal bleeding, a mole that changes shape, colour and size, loss of appetite and weight, glands that persist even after the presumed source of infection has been treated.

Your doctor will guide you further, but to make a definitive diagnosis of cancer, one needs histology (a tissue biopsy).
Certain easy-to-reach areas can be biopsied under local anaesthetics in a doctor’s room.
Melanoma is one of those dangerous cancers that should be biopsied if there is any concern about a suspicious skin mole.
Early detection can save lives.

To support the World Cancer Day social media campaign visit

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