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LEARNING ABOUT CANCER
WHAT IS MY ROLE AS A CARER?
CARERS AND THE MEDICAL TEAM
CARING FOR THE PATIENT
WHEN THE PATIENTíS HEALTH FAILS
PALLIATIVE AND ADVANCED CANCER CARE
DEALING WITH PRACTICAL & PERSONAL AFFAIRS
PRACTICAL TIPS
STORIES OF HOPE
LIST OF HOSPITALS IN MALAYSIA
SUPPORT GROUPS

 
 LEARNING ABOUT CANCER

  No one plans to be a cancer carer. It just happens.

At the early stage, the news that a friend, spouse, child or relative has cancer comes as a surprise. It may take time to sink in as you go through an emotional upheaval Ė denial, anger, regret and acceptance.

But you can plan for the life changes as you adjust to your new role as a carer. The first step is being informed. The more informed you are on the disease, the better you can care for your relative or friend. The better equipped youíll be to deal with your own emotions and feelings.

WHAT IS CANCER?

Very simply, cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the body.

Our body normally creates new cells to replace old ones. Specific cells are created for specific functions.

Cancer happens when this natural process is disrupted and abnormal cells are produced. With time, the number of abnormal cells increases forming into lumps (tumours) which displaces normal cells. This eventually disrupts normal cell production and body functions.

There are over two hundred types of cancer, each is distinctive, with its own characteristics and symptoms and which body part it afflicts.

HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?

Unless the person has been exposed to toxic chemicals or radiation, there is no exact cause as to why someone gets cancer. Till today, doctors are still trying to find out why cancer occurs in the body.

Certain factors such as age, gender, family history and an unhealthy lifestyle may make a person more susceptible to the disease. But because cancer comes in so many forms and can start from various parts of the body, it can strike people of all ages, ethnic groups and lifestyles.

There is hope.

There have been many stories of people who thanks to early detection, proper medical treatment and good care, coupled with a positive mental attitude have recovered from cancer. They now lead normal lives with some even going back to their pre-cancer lifestyles.

There is always a fighting chance against cancer. And as a carer, you can make a big difference to your loved one.

WHAT IS CANCER SCREENING?

Screening basically means going for tests that will detect signs of cancer. There are different screening methods for different cancers.

In Malaysia, you can be screened for breast, cervical and bowel cancer. There are established procedures for this in government and private medical hospitals. Screening for other types of cancer is also being developed across the world.

Who Should Go For Screening?

The following cancer screening guidelines are recommended for those people at average risk for cancer (unless otherwise specified) and without any specific symptoms. People who are at increased risk for certain cancers may need to follow a different screening schedule, such as starting at an earlier age or being screened more often. Those with symptoms that could be related to cancer should see their doctor right away.

For people aged 20 or older having periodic health exams, cancer-related checkups should include health counselling, and depending on a personís age and gender, might include exams for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, testes, and ovaries, as well as for some non-malignant (non-cancerous) diseases.

As a carer, if the person youíre looking after is a family member (parent, child, sibling or blood relative), you should seriously consider screening as the family history may mean you have a higher risk of getting cancer.

Screening Saves Lives

Early detection through screening has saved many lives.

If you canít thwart cancer, the next best thing you can do to protect your health is to detect it early. Recognizing symptoms, getting regular check-ups, and performing self-exams are just a few ways you can do this. Early detection means the cancer is found at a stage when it is still curable or is still controllable. Many patients who discovered their cancers early have made full recoveries and go on to lead normal healthy lives.

It is vital that people go for screening. Consult your doctor if you are not sure about whether or how often you should go for screening.

If I am a woman, what screening tests should I have?

To help find breast cancer early, you should begin by checking your breasts for lumps every month, beginning at about age 20. Doctors can teach you how to check your breasts on your own. You should also have your doctor check your breasts every 1 to 2 years beginning when youíre 30 and you should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years beginning at age 40. If you have risk factors for breast cancer, such as a family history, your doctor may want you to have mammograms more often or start having them sooner.

To help find cervical cancer early, have regular Pap smears. During a Pap smear, your doctor takes a sample of cells from your cervix to be tested. You should have your first Pap smear when you start having sex or by age 18. Continue having a Pap smear once a year until youíve had at least 3 normal ones. After this, you should have a Pap smear at least every 3 years, unless your doctor suggests that you need one more often. You should keep having Pap smears throughout your life, even after menopause.

If I am a man, what screening tests should I have?

To help find prostate cancer early, first talk to your doctor about your risk. Doctors donít all agree on whether screening is needed for men who arenít at high risk of prostate cancer.

Your doctor may examine your prostate by putting a gloved, lubricated finger a few inches into your rectum to feel your prostate gland. This is called a digital rectal exam. A normal prostate feels firm and rubbery. If there are hard spots on the prostate, your doctor may suspect cancer.

To help find testicular cancer early, examine your testicles on a routine basis. If you find anything unusual during a selfexam (like a lump or swelling), see your doctor right away. The best time to do the exam is during or right after a shower or a bath. The warm water relaxes the skin on your scrotum and makes the exam easier. Your doctor can give you more specific information about checking your testicles.

 

 
A Community Service Project by: Malaysian Oncological Society and Pfizer Malaysia - (latest update: 24-02-2011)