All you Need to Know About Cancer

The Encyclopedia of life sciences defines cancer as a complex genetic disease caused primarily by environmental factors. In United States cancer is the second leading cause for death, just surpassed by heart diseases, says a statics report from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. It is predicted that in 2020, there will be 20 million new cases and 12 million deaths by cancer. The cancer has positioned as the third highest reason of morbidity after infectious and cardiovascular diseases in Kenya, states the Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations (KENCO).

Cancer can be say as a collection of many diseases in which the cells of tissue or organ will grow and multiply out of control and become abnormal. These abnormal cells form a mass called tumor except in some cases like leukemia.  These tumors can be either cancerous or benign. The cancerous tumors, which are malignant, may grow and spread to the others parts of the body, where in the benign tumors don’t have the ability to occupy into the neighboring tissues.

Bladder cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer and leukemia are some of the common cancer types. Breast cancer and cervical cancer are dangerously common among women wherein prostate, stomach cancer and oesophagus cancer are common in men. There are many causes for cancer. Genetic factors and lifestyle factors like tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical in activities and alcoholism are most common among them. Certain types of infections, especially some viruses are linked to certain cancers. People with persistent infections such as Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C virus have an increased risk of developing liver cancer.

Mesothelioma Cancer may cause due to the environmental exposure to chemicals like benzene, asbestos, formaldehyde and radiation. Age is another factor, because the older you are, the more likely you are to develop cancer. This is probably due to a buildup of damage to cells in the body over time. Also, the body’s defenses and resistance against abnormal cells may become weaker with age.

People with depressed immune systems may have an increased the risk of developing certain cancers. People with HIV/AIDS or people on immunosuppressive treatment have a higher risk of developing cancer.

Signs and symptoms

There is a wide range of signs and symptoms of cancer and it depends on the how big is the cancer and much it affected the organs and tissues and also on the affected body part.

Unexplained weight loss

Most people with cancer, especially cancers of the pancreas, stomach, oesophagus or lungs, will lose weight for no known reason.


Most cancer patients will have fever, more often if the cancer or its treatment affects the immune system. Less often, fever may be an early sign of blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma.


Fatigue is excessive tiredness and taking rest cannot help the condition to get cured. It may happen early in leukemia. Some colon cancers can cause blood loss that is not obvious and this leads to fatigue.


Sometimes, pain can be an early symptom of testicular or bone cancer. A headache which doesn’t get cured or get better with treatment can be a symptom of brain tumor. Sometimes pain is a symptom of colon, rectum or ovary cancer. Pain usually occurs when it has already spread (metastasized) from where it originated.

Changes in the skin

In addition to skin cancer, some other forms of cancer can also cause skin changes. The patient may get darker looking skin (hyperpigmentation), yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice), reddened skin (erythema), excessive hair growth or itching (pruritis).

Diagnosing cancer

This is the first step to cancer management.

If cancer is diagnosed, doctor will examine the patient for abnormalities like swelling under the skin or enlarged liver. Patient may be also referred for X-Rays, scan, blood test, endoscopy, colonoscopy or bronchoscopy depending on the affected area. These tests will help to find out the exact sites of cancer. However a biopsy is frequently expected to determine that the variation is a disease, not something else (like a benign tumor)

Treating cancer

There different treatment options which depends on the type of cancer and its level of growth and spread. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are common treatment options. In surgery, the tumor and surrounding tissues are removed by an oncologist. This operation often removes all or some of the cancerous tissue after diagnosis.

Chemotherapy treatment uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells. The drug or combination of drugs selected depends on the type of cancer being treated. Chemotherapy works by suppressing cancer cells from growing and dividing to make more cells.

In radiotherapy, radiation oncologists supervise radiation treatment, which usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time. This treatment uses high-energy beams of radiation, which are focused on cancerous tissue to kill cancer cells. The main aim of this treatment is to wipe out cancer cells without damaging the nearby healthy tissue.

As per the Kenya National Cancer Control Strategy (2011-2016) arranged by the then Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and the Ministry of Medical Services, the below interferences were put in place in situations where disease has struck.

  • Improvement of cancer diagnosis services
  • This ensures that the capacity of health facilities is improved for accuracy as well as a timely cancer diagnostic process.
  • Enhancing accessibility of cancer treatment
  • This is aimed at easing access to quality and safe cancer treatment services, establishing and improving cancer treatment centers and mobilizing financial resources for a comprehensive cancer control programme.Human capacity building

The goal of this intervention is to enhance human resource capacity for comprehensive cancer management.

People must be concerned more than ever about cancer in order to save lives. This must be emphasized, especially among people at the base level of the community who tend to ignore the signs and symptoms of cancer, with some resorting to witchdoctors.

The Karen Hospital has taken mammoth steps in ensuring that only the best is available to our clients in the fight against cancer. This not only applies to technological advancements but also highly qualified personnel always ready to help. Our oncology team consists of highly trained nurses, doctors, lab technicians, radiologists, surgeons and oncologists armed to battle this scourge with you. Visit any of our ten branches and get assisted with pertinent information.