“I am sorry to tell you but the test results have come back showing Cancer”
They are the words you would never expect to hear. Because YOU are bulletproof. YOU don’t get sick, only old people and people you read about in the newspaper do.
Having cancer was a reality check and a wake up call as well as the biggest shock of my life and after having the disease I can confidently say that cancer is not an old persons disease. It does not matter how old you are or who you are – it will not discriminate.
The most alarming thing looking back was that it was something I knew nothing about and how is that possible when breast cancer is the most common cancer in women world wide according to the WHO – World Health Organisation. Should we be teaching the science of cancer to our future generations? Yes. Why? Because knowledge is power and the lack of knowledge fuels fear.
Cancer is a mutation of your cells. We are all made up of cells, there are billions of them and the are essentially the building blocks of life. There are good cells that reproduce and die off just like we do making new cells and the circle of life continues. However, there are always bad cells lurking. There are filters in place that do stop some of the bad cells getting through but like always they occasionally don’t work. The bad cells mutate and grow causing what we then know to be cancer. Because cancer is so sneaky sometimes we do not notice it until it stops something from working as it should or it causes a discomfort that we question.
If caught in the early stages cancer is easily treatable.
However, because we can’t often identify the signs and the symptoms because they are similar to other ailments in a lot of cases cancers are caught incredibly late making the diagnosis harsh and the prognosis outlook not good. The most important message cancer awareness organisations seem to be pushing is currently knowing what normal looks and feels like for you and if you are ever in doubt then go and get it checked out.
It is important to remember that one persons cancer cannot be compared to another persons. There are so many variables – location, size, shape, genetic code, grade, stage.
A lot of people ask me about what is meant by the stage and grade of a tumor.
The stage of a cancer describes the size of a tumour and how far it has spread from where it originated. The grade describes the appearance of the cancerous cells.
Staging and grading the cancer will allows doctors to determine its size, whether it has spread and the best treatment options are.
Stage 0 – indicates that the cancer is where it started (in situ) and isn’t spreading
Stage I – the tumour is less than 2cm (0.8 inches) and isn’t spreading
Stage II – the tumour is 2-5cm (0.8-1.97 inches) with or without lymph node involvement (lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system) and hasn’t spread
Stage III – the tumour is larger than 5cm (1.97 inches) but fixed either to chest wall, muscle or skin, or has spread to lymph nodes above the collarbone
Stage IV – the tumour is any size – it may affect the lymph nodes but has definitely spread to other parts of the body
The grade of a cancer depends on what the cells look like under a microscope.
In general, a lower grade indicates a slower-growing cancer and a higher grade indicates a faster-growing one. The grading system that’s usually used is as follows:
Grade I – cancer cells that resemble normal cells and aren’t growing rapidly
Grade II – cancer cells that don’t look like normal cells and are growing faster than normal cells
Grade III – cancer cells that look abnormal and may grow or spread more aggressively
Cancer is not something we should fear. Being scared of something will always make us less smart and put barriers up around something that could hurt us. We need to be smart about the awareness and education of cancer in order to save the lives of our future generations.