September is the month for Childhood Cancer Awareness, Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness, Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Prostate Cancer Awareness.
There has been an ongoing decline in cancer deaths over the past two decades, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
Recognizing the signs of cancer, understanding how best to support loved ones who are fighting the disease, and knowing the resources available, can all aid in the cancer fight. This includes aiding awareness, increasing early diagnoses, and creating support systems for those fighting this terrible disease and their families.
Childhood Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children, although childhood cancers are much rarer than adult cancers (only about 1% of diagnosed cancer cases are children). Children’s cancers are rarely linked to lifestyle and environment, but are most often the result of cellular degeneration, a key difference from those seen in adults. Leukemia and Lymphoma are common, as are brain or nervous system cancers, bone cancer and eye or kidney cancer.
Leukemia is a cancer of blood cells or bone marrow that can strike at any age. Symptoms include bruising or bleeding easily, a swollen or painful stomach, bone and joint pain, and excess weight loss.
Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that directly affects the cells that form the immune system. Some symptoms include night sweats, excess or unexplained weight loss, fever and fatigue.
Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among men. Because it is slow growing and doesn’t have notable symptoms, it’s vital that every man over 50 get their prostate checked as a part of their annual exam.
Ovarian Cancer has very subtle symptoms that include abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or change in digestive habits. If these persist for a few weeks on a daily basis, check with your gynecologist.
Time is always of the essence in battling cancer. Understanding the screenings available and symptoms to be aware of can help in early diagnoses and vastly increased opportunities for survival.
Raising awareness is something all of us can do.
If you know someone who has been diagnosed, treat them as you always would, and ask them how to best support them. Some of the best things to do:
– Acknowledge their situation, use sympathy. Ignoring the diagnosis does not make it go away. Don’t linger on expressing sympathy, but be sure to acknowledge how difficult it must be.
– Offer to help. Repeat the offer and look for ways to help them. Do they like a specific kind of tea? Do they read a lot? What is their favorite game? Find ways to support them.
– Encourage them to be open, and be open with them. Allow them to tell you they’re scared, to not require them to be unendingly positive.
– Talk about whatever you talked about before the diagnosis. Cancer does not take away the person who has been diagnosed, so be ready to enjoy the person beyond the cancer.
– Do not offer religious consolation or platitudes unless you are sure their beliefs match the offered consolation. Not everyone shares the same beliefs, and religious consolation can anger.
– Do not offer advice unless they ask for it. This is a scary, medical and personal process and, unless they ask for it, even well-intentioned advice can cause significant guilt.
– Do not share your own stories of illness unless they ask. Often those fighting cancer just need personal support and sympathy. Stories of others who may have survived worse – or perhaps not survived – are not helpful.
– Do not comment if they look different. The medicines can make them gain or lose weight; they may or may not lose their hair. Commenting on physical changes can make a cancer fighter self-conscious, focus on something else.
Cancer is a scary reality. The fight to find its cure continues, but raising awareness to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers is very important. If you are interested in supporting the quests for cures of these, please see any of the following websites:The Mayo Clinic