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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Who cares about alerts on cancer?

8th February 2013
Editorial Cartoon

Monday (February 4) was World Cancer Day, and humankind was expected to mark it accordingly – that is, guided by both the cruel facts about the disease and the other need to recognise and build on the advances made in efforts to tame it.

However, it is hard to say whether that expectation was met. For most people, it was just another entry on a list of calendar days bearing a special tag commonly taken for granted or not even noticed.

That is how bad and sad things can be when care for what is important or urgent recedes and the relatively inconsequential steal the show, with the consequences of the lack of appropriate action being as serious as anyone can imagine.

Distinguished personalities in medicine, politics and various other worlds have on countless occasions underscored the need to seek prevention rather than wait until the situation has worsened and treatment, a much more expensive option, is no longer optional.

Yet, what do we keep seeing? Is it not that millions upon millions of people with health problems only seek medical attention after they have gone past the stage where prevention could have come in really handy?

Granted, there are numerous times when such expert advice is not that readily available – in far-flung villages, for instance. But there are also numerous cases where it has more to do with not caring to take enough care than being unable to access expert counsel.

For roundabout a month to World Cancer Day, the media ran advertorials principally aimed at sensitising members of the public on the disease, and this so frequently and regularly that very few will not have been reached by the message being disseminated.

Part of the message revolved around ways to avoid factors commonly known to prompt or precipitate cancer, among them tobacco and alcohol use, being overweight or obese, going for diet with low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, and some sexually transmitted infections.

Experts say more than three in ten cancer deaths could be prevented simply by modifying or steering clear of these key risk factors – that is, 30 per cent of all the 100-plus types of cancers known to exist could be cured if detected early enough and treated adequately. But how many of us ever care to heed such pieces of advice?

One would have thought that the grim statistics given from time to time by such agencies as the World Health Organisation would have injected enough sense into people to translate into more responsible lifestyles and, by logical extension, much fewer deaths due to reckless behaviour and practices.

Example: At least 7.6 million people succumbed to cancer in 2008, accounting to 13 per cent of all deaths worldwide. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence of that triggering befitting counteractive action!

So, what more need one say for the message to sink and make a difference? Maybe just that there are many myths about cancer, a disease that involves untold suffering, and everyone must get out and know the truth about it at least to help minimise the pain and torture it can cause. In the main, this means minding our own steps.



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