Detecting, Preventing, and Managing Reproductive Cancers
By Mankah Berinice
In as much as many young Cameroonians are aware of the fact that reproductive cancer kills, some are still ignorant and others neglect it.
Sex education or talking about parts of the body like the breast, vagina, and penis seem to be taboo in most Cameroonian homes. At times children start mimicking or using other words when referring to these body parts. This poses a threat to the lives of youths. Children find it difficult to complain to their parents when they feel discomfort in these areas, which can contribute to these issues escalating.
Adding to this, the concept of “bribe price” makes a woman an object in some instances in Cameroon. This prevents her from making decisions about her health without the consent of her husband. The pressure surrounding the idea of masculinity in Cameroon has also had a tendency to make men feel the need to always act tough, or avoid emotions, particularly when it comes to their health. This cultural pressure makes some pretend to be physically strong and emotionally fine as well as fearful of revealing the truth about their status.
Grace, as she is called, said her story evolved from sad to good, and from good to better. “I was fifteen years old when I had my first menstruation, at this age, I started having growth in my breast which was accompanied by a lot of pains. My parents assured me that breast growth comes with pains and I had to endure it since I was just starting to have breasts. As I grew up, the pains kept coming on and off and I felt it will subdue with time. I only felt a knot on my left breast towards my armpit when I was creaming. I tried pressing it and immediately water came out of my breast and I felt the sharp pain again.
For about five years I did not feel the pain often again. It could just take me unawares for a second and that will be all for a month or two so, I ignored it though the small ball was still there. When I was 24years old, I got pregnant. My breast increased in size and the pain became severe again. This time I was scared. I explained this to a midwife in the health center where I go for antenatal and she advised me to go for a breast cancer screening but I ignored it. When I finally gave birth, my child refused to be breastfed. It was beginning to dawn on me that this is serious. I immediately visited a hospital and it was discovered that I have breast cancer and it has spread past the layer of the tissue where it began. The only solution was to get rid of the breast which I did. All of this happened because of my negligence and the ignorance of my parents and the people around me”.
Grace is just one out of a million other cases of reproductive cancer in Cameroon and thousands die every year of cancer especially reproductive cancer still in Cameroon. Many even die because of negligence. In some cases, the partners of the infected attribute the cancer to witchcraft and witch-hunting, trying to solve the problem, looking for solutions from herbalists and witch doctors. In a typical Cameroonian society, when a young teenager begins to develop breasts, the breast is massaged or ironed in order to reduce the risk of breast cancer... Some believe that breast cancer can be suspected when you start noticing swelling or a lump in the breast, persistent breast tenderness or pain, painful or sunken nipples, and scaling of the skin on the nipple.
According to Doctor Mbam A, a medical doctor at the Santa District Hospital Northwest region of Cameroon, reproductive cancer occurs in both men and women. Since there is no simple and reliable way to screen for most cancers except cervical cancer, it is especially important to recognize warning signs and learn if there are things you can do to reduce the risk. Breast cancer can occur as a result of age, personal and family history, first pregnancy after 35years, hormone replacement therapy after menopause, race and ethnicity, frequent excessive alcohol, overweight, and lack of physical activities. Cervical cancer usually affects women between thirty and fifty but younger women are also at risk. Smoking weakens the immune system which can lead to persistent HPV (Human Papillomavirus) infection.
Ovarian cancer can be provoked by many different reasons. Cancer of the ovaries can be fatal and is one of the most dangerous conditions detected in female reproductive organs. Detecting, preventing as well as management of tumors in their initial phases is important.
Some think that reproductive cancer can only be experienced by women when men can also suffer from testicular, prostate, and penile cancer.
According to Dr. Mbam Leonard testicular cancer can be common in younger men. It can be successfully being treated with surgery but an early diagnosis is key. Testicular cancer can be suspected when the testicle has a lump or swelling, shape or size change, pain when feeling the testicle, shortness of breath, and even breast growth or soreness. In cases like this, the person's concern is to consult a physician as soon as possible.
The psychological effects of having cancer can be devastating. The orthodox medical approach to cancer has always been prescription drugs and surgery which are less effective not to mention the risk involved in surgery with some potentially serious side effects which are often almost as serious as the cancer.
Cancer survivors must practice relaxation techniques, share their feelings with friends and family, a spiritual adviser or a counselor, always keep a journal to help in organizing thoughts, and most important of all is not to stop the daily activities done before because depression might kill more than cancer. These people must believe that they are survivors and must not think they are alone thereby making their selves available for any help at their disposal. In other to avoid stories that touch, the necessary should always be done so as to avoid reproductive cancer.
More information on sexual reproductive health can be gotten from Nigeria medical journal: journal of the Nigeria Medical Association 56 (3), 185, 2015. Olorunfemi Emmanuel Amoran. Or