Story by: Frederick Hasa
Every human being has goals in life, those goals drive us to planning for our future with great passion and hope. With all ambitions and plans, we all cling onto one thing, life. In a world where life means everything, yet we cannot control our next breath, it is hard to be sure of our future. Nevertheless, every human being’s desire is to live. A life full of good health and realizing one’s dreams. Many will live complete lives by raising their children, others by sharing their world with their spouses, loved ones and family. Even with the hope, cancer has killed many dreams, breeding hopelessness amongst family members. The current reality is, the burden of cancer is growing at a fast rate all over the world with no discrimination, gradually developing into a mountain of a challenge to the health sector and the entire world. Cancer can be defined as a disease in which a group of abnormal cells grow uncontrollably by disregarding the normal rules of cell division. If the division and proliferation of cells are allowed to continue and spread, it can be fatal, eventually leading to death. The fatality does not discriminate, be it age, sex or country. Almost 90% of cancer-related deaths are a result of the spread of the tumor. With more than 100 distinct types of cancer, the different external factors in the environment like; tobacco, chemicals, radiation and internal factors within the cells, common cancers take months and years for the DNA mutations to accumulate and result into detectable cancer. This has increased the fatality rates. According to the World Health Organization, Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018 globally. Approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low and middle-income countries.
The realities of cases of women, children, and families grappling with cancer in low and middle-income countries present twisted challenges that require combined efforts to overcome. One may wonder, does the majority of the world population, living in rural areas really understand what cancer is?
Is there genuine knowledge of how fatal it is, most especially in developing countries? Look here; in many low and middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Central America, the poverty levels are high. Secondly, the number of individuals thriving in rural areas where there is a scarcity of adequate healthcare is high. Thirdly, ignorance of the realities of cancer among the people is also high, this means, cancer awareness could solve a great deal if the right information is disseminated to the right people on time. With growing cancer rates in East Africa, one still finds that the majority of the people directly affected are women, and since they are the caregivers in homes, they also carry the greatest burden indirectly. With lack of proper medication and specialized care, children have had to feel the gross pain of battling with cancer. For example, late-stage presentation and inaccessible diagnosis and treatment are common. Making the gross pain and high cancer death rates inevitable. This tells a lot more about the healthcare system in many developing countries all over the world. In 2018, 0ver 2.09 million cases of death from breast cancer were reported. Breast cancer is the longest thorn among women, it can occur at any age. So without a proper healthcare system in place, the effects of cancer can have a fatal impact on the economy of the country. Cervical cancer, skin cancer, and ovarian cancer have not spared the world, these are
most likely to occur when one gets older. This implies that the young generation will have to spend more time working to support the health needs of their aging cancer relatives, this also stifles development. The most common types of cancers among children are leukemia, brain, and central nervous system tumors and lymphomas. Let this reality tickle our minds to create a deeper cancer awareness in our societies. Where prevention is possible, let it thrive.
Cancer being detected late should not drive us towards resigning and giving up on our loved ones. We at Prince Wako Foundation believe in solution providing. There is always a way we guide families towards coping with advanced cancer situations. Pain can be that thorn that seeks to prick one’s flesh, but genuine comfort and care from loved ones can soothe the soul. As we mark World cancer day 2019, we should dedicate ourselves towards providing comfort and care towards cancer patients whether in advanced stages or not. Secondly, the impact of talks with healthcare professionals when grappling with cancer is very important. Well in many rural areas of developing countries, this is very hard. Access to a specialized health professional can help many cancer patients get the right diagnosis, treatment, and information. In the long run, this takes away many misconceptions in villages where they tend to resort to local herbs and consultation of mediums for solutions. It is important that access to healthcare also takes care of the symptoms that will bring discomfort to the cancer patient. Getting help for your symptoms as a patient boosts the commitment towards proper medication in full. Once symptoms are successfully worked on, there is a higher chance of one keeping faith in life, this in some stages also boosts the chances of complete healing most especially amongst women. We as caregivers in the world, should help cancer patients maintain their belief and meaning in life. Positivity around cancer patients will definitely engage more people, resultantly one life can save a lot more young lives, depending on how the situation is handled.
Regardless of age and background, we should urge each other to do the basics in our lives. These basics will keep us and our loved ones cancer free. In any case, if being cancer free is not possible, at least one will be able to detect cancer at an early stage, and thus early and proper medical care which will lead to complete healing. Let us develop a culture of regular checkup and cancer tests. With different organizations bringing such services closer to the population, we ought to submit ourselves, to understand our health status better. It is very important to take care of the body, eat healthy regularly. So often we spend all our energy during work and forget about taking care of our own bodies. Eating the right foods at the right time, can help a great deal. It is scientifically proven and well documented, tobacco is the leading cause of cancer, let us stay away from tobacco. In an era where obesity has become a big problem, cancer has thrived. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight, for any individual will help protect one from the risk of cancer in the long run. Lastly, protection of the skin. Bleaching has become very common of late, this does not only destroy skin cells but also exposes one to cancer. The kind of cosmetics we use on our skins should be appropriate and compatible with the health of our bodies. We can do a lot more as individuals, families, and communities, one life lost to cancer should not limit our commitment towards doing more.
In Uganda, the health care is still largely government based, this tells you why several designated areas were put in place by the government to offer free cancer screening in 2018. The challenge then is, the government cannot keep up with the growing population, and so, patients have to supplement and buy drugs. With the high poverty levels, many patients cannot afford the cancer drugs once given the right prescriptions. Kaposi sarcoma is the biggest killer. It is the largest cause of death among cancer patients in Uganda, among both men and women. The epidemic type of Kaposi sarcoma is associated with HIV. When you have HIV, your chances of developing Kaposi sarcoma are very high. This is like a war at several fronts with limited weapons. In women, the most common is cervical cancer, and somehow in Uganda, it is not associated with HIV. Breast cancer is quite common. All this has created a combination of challenges, which need to be fought with greater commitment and passion.
Prince Wako Foundation is committed to finding and implementing workable solutions to challenges in different societies. As we join the rest of the world to mark World Cancer Day 2019, we challenge one another to care more, comfort more and create awareness of the realities and threats of cancer in our societies. With the number of helpful people increasing, resources will definitely increase, this will make it possible for different people in rural areas to access the right medical care. Our Joy is in seeing available solutions implemented for the love of a healthy and productive society. Together, let us live to create awareness of cancer and encourage its prevention.