Why you should be extra vigilant about Cancer now more than ever
Headlines telling of delays in diagnosis, or a delay in treatment for Cancer patients due to COVID, hits home hard for me.
Having been down this most unwanted of journeys twice now, I know how hard the waiting can be. Days seem like weeks, weeks seem like years, as you wait, not knowing what is going on in your body.
Early diagnosis is key when it comes to Cancer. Caught in the early stages, it can literally be the difference between life and death. Cancer which is confined to one area is more treatable. Leave it and it could travel to another area of your body - Metastasis, making it harder to treat and in many cases can not be cured. This is why if you notice anything unusual with your body, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Don’t put it off assuming it can wait or that it’s non-urgent because of COVID.
I cannot fault the NHS when it comes to my treatment. I feel lucky, yes, I never thought I’d say that about Cancer either, that I was a fair way through treatment when the impact of COVID hit our health service. Personally, my actual treatment wasn’t affected, although for later appointments I had to go alone.
I know some people have questions about the vaccine. Not only whether it is safe, but how it was produced so quickly and because of that, why is there still no cure for Cancer.
Let’s address these. Now, I’m no Doctor, but my consultants did ensure me it was safe to have the vaccine. Due to the treatment I received, plus ongoing hormone therapy, I am still classed as vulnerable. I had the vaccine a week ago, yes, I felt rotten the next day, but it lasted less than 24 hours. I know I’d rather that than COVID. As for long term, well, we have to put our faith in the experts, don't we. Through chemotherapy and radiation my body has been subjected to some crazy shit! But I’m here to tell the tale, and that’s what we have to remember.
So, why have they not found a cure for Cancer if they can make a vaccine that quickly? (Yeah, I know lockdown probably seems to have lasted forever, but think about how long Cancer has been around - probably forever)
You see it’s really not that easy. Cancer isn’t just one disease, there are so many different kinds and types of Cancer and each person's treatment is targeted.
My treatment for Breast Cancer wouldn’t necessarily work for another person with Breast Cancer, never mind say bowel cancer for example.
So what is Cancer?
Put it this way, it would be impossible to count the number of cells in the human body as they are simply so tiny, however they play a MASSIVE role. They are the building blocks of all living organisms and some of their functions are to provide a structure for the body, for example our skin is made up of tiny cells. They also grow and divide to make new cells as the body needs them. They transport nutrients, oxygen and waste around the body, transfer nerve impulses around the body and create reactions within the body to make energy.
The difference between normal cells and cancer cells is that normal cells stop growing and dividing when there are enough of them whereas Cancer cells continue growing and reproducing themselves and build into tumours or abnormal blood cells.
When the Cancer cells spread around our bodies and cause secondary growths away from the primary site, this is called metastasis.
Different types of Cancer include:
Carcinoma - Cancers derived from epithelial cells. These begin in the tissues that line or cover internal organs.
Sarcoma - Cancers arising from connective tissues (ie bone, cartilage, fat, nerve.
Lymphoma - Begins in the lymph nodes or the lymphatic system. Lymphoma can present itself as lumps which are actually swollen lymph nodes. Our lymphatic system is there to help fight infection. When cancer cells gather there it weakens the immune system. Constant colds or feeling run down can be a symptom.
Leukaemia - Starts in the blood and bone marrow causing the body to make too many white blood cells which prevents the body from fighting infections. Bruising easily can often be a symptom
Melanoma - This is the one you often hear associated with moles. This is because this type of cancer is a form of skin cancer. It gets its name from melanin as it begins in the cells which produce it. Melanin gives skin its colour
Myeloma - Myeloma - This starts in the plasma cells. Plasma is part of the blood. The Cancer makes abnormal antibodies which can damage the bones and kidneys as well as preventing the body from fighting infection
The most common cancers in the UK are:
Breast Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Lung Cancer and Bowel Cancer
Less common are:
Pancreatic, Ovarian, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Thyroid and also Skin Cancer.
The repercussions that COVID has had on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer will likely be felt long after the virus has (hopefully) been made under control. Whilst we’re still living in these uncertain times, ensure you are extra vigilant when it comes to your health. Get to know your body. It could save your life!