Giving hope

Pictured from left are Lucky Dassa, Joy le Roux, and director Wendy Nefdt, who lit candles in remembrance of their loved ones lost to cancer.

All of us are born with potential cancer cells and sometimes all it takes is one specific factor to make them grow, for example a smoker stands a 25 percent more chance to get cancer.

These and many more pieces of information were shared at Epilepsy SA’s cancer awareness programme, themed “Hope”, held at the Epilepsy SA offices in Lansdowne last Friday.

Wendy Nefdt, the organisation’s regional director, said the event was also aimed at raising awareness about cancer among people with disabilities.

She said part of the organisation’s aims is to show support to cancer patients and their families.

“Our message is get screened regularly, take care of your bodies, and know that we are here,” said Ms Nefdt.

Colleen Marco, care clinic manager at the Cancer Association of South Africa, spoke about the causes of cancer, the risk factors, and symptoms thereof.

Ms Marco said all of us are born with potential cancer cells and it takes one specific factor to make it grow.

The risk factors for cancer include tobacco, infection, alcohol, environmental chemicals such as the sun, lifestyle factors such as exercise and weight, genes, and chronic inflammation. “Have your body checked and looked at regularly. Cancer of the skin is quite dangerous and can spread very quickly.

“Fat also causes more hormones to be produced which is perfect for the growth of cancer cells and that is why men are less likely to get breast cancer because their breast don’t have as much fat as women do,” Ms Marco said.

Warning factors to look out for include a change in bowel or bladder habits, a sore throat that doesn’t heal, unusual bleeding or discharge, thickening or lump on breasts, testicles or elsewhere, indigestion or difficulty swallowing, obvious change in size, colour, shape or thickness of warts, moles, and mouth sores, as well as a nagging cough or hoarseness.

To reduce the chance of getting cancer, Ms Marco suggested the following; no smoking, have your breast checked, eat healthily, exercise, have your colon, prostate, and testicles checked, have a Pap smear done regularly, and have your skin checked.

“People wait to have pain and then they do something but they shouldn’t wait for any pain to start and when there is no pain they ignore the other symptoms. Have regular check-ups once a year,” she added.