Becky Bird investigates the frightening world of the C word and argues why people should start talking about their fears
Written on 3 March, 2013 by bbird.
Despite the major technological advances within the world of medicine, cancer is still as frightening as ever. Just like the taboo over the villainous 'Lord Voldemort' from the fictional book series, Harry potter, the disease is something that is still feared by all.
Back in September 2010, my Nan was diagnosed with lung cancer. After a lifetime of smoking and diagnosed with emphysema 10 years earlier, it seemed inevitable yet completely life changing at the same time. It becomes the fixation of your life for the upcoming months as you have to learn and understand about the disease, the treatments and the recovery, and most importantly you have to talk about it. The biggest part is overcoming the fear of the word itself. Weeks of treatment turned into months of hospital stays but there was nothing we could do to stop it all together, 10 months on and my Nan peacefully slipped away in the middle of the night, and lost her battle to cancer. What I realised is that you can put yourself in a bubble away from cancer and pretend like it doesn't exist until one fateful day when it comes knocking at your front door and leaves you with your world turned upside down.
A recent study by Cancer Research has shown that one in three people will develop cancer in their life time; the most common cancers diagnosed worldwide are lung, breast and bowel cancer, and these are also the most frequent causes of cancer deaths, so why won't people talk about it?
In 2008, an estimated 12.66 million people were diagnosed with cancer across the world. This equates to around 188 cases for every 100,000 people. To put it another way, more men and women between the ages of 40 and 59 years are hearing the words 'you have cancer' than ever before.
These are scary statistics, but we must remember that medical treatment has vastly improved since the discovery of cancer in late 19th century, and recovery rates have almost doubled in the past five years. We need to remember what this big scary words mean, it is simply a disease caused by normal cells changing so that they grow in an uncontrolled way, therefore causing a lump or a tumor. There are over 200 types of cancer because there are over 200 types of body cells. For example, the cells that make up the lungs can cause lung cancer, but because there are different cells within the lungs, many different types of lung cancer can be diagnosed.
Experts estimate that up to half of all cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes. Simple things like not smoking can lower your chances of lung cancer, enjoying the sun safely can reduce the risk of skin cancer and keeping an active lifestyle and maintaining a healthy body weight can do wonders for everyone. We know that getting cancer is not always down to bad genes, fate or bad luck, although it may seem that way, so why are people so reluctant to talk about it?
Many psychological health studies have shown that support groups and cancer have shown a higher recovery rate for patients than those without social support groups. Research showed that people with cancer are able to deal with it better when supported by others in a similar situation. Surely this is the perfect reason for us to get talking?
Cancer is something that we will all have to deal with at some point in our lives, be it today, tomorrow or in 10 years' time, but there's not a better time than now to start talking about it.
If you are suffering with cancer, or know somebody that is, here are some ways to get your voice heard:
Pop onto www.cancerresearchuk.org to read stories on other people's battles with cancer, and feel free to share your own.
Contact your GP to find out about cancer counselling sessions in your area. Give yourself the chance to share your experiences and worries with others.
Fancy some fun? Take part in your local Race for Life or other fund raising events.