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Cancer is a collective name given to related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. It can start almost anywhere in the human body, which consists of trillions of cells. Ordinarily, human cells grow and divide to form new cells. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place. In cancer patients, this process breaks down. As cells become abnormal, old or damaged, some cells survive when they should die, and new cells form when they are not needed. These extra cells are divided without stopping and may form growths called tumours. Many cancers form solid tumours, which are masses of tissue. However, cancers of the blood, such as leukaemia, generally do not form solid tumours. Cancerous tumours are malignant, which means they can spread into, or invade, nearby tissues. As malignant tumours grow, the cells can break off and travel to distant places in the body through the blood, or the lymph system, and form new tumours.

Incidence and prevalence of cancer 

Lung cancer, cervical cancer, and oesophageal cancer are the three most fatal cancers in South Africa, which account for more than 1,900 deaths in the past year alone. According to a new study titled, “Global, Regional, and National Cancer Incidence, Mortality, Years of Life Lost, Years Lived with Disability, and Disability-Adjusted Life-years”, cancer caused over 8.7 million deaths globally and was the second leading cause of death behind cardiovascular diseases. The study also reported that there were 114,091 new cancer cases and 58,237 deaths in 2015 in South Africa. According to Professor Benn Sartorius, a co-author of the study, based in (Public Health Medicine at University of KwaZulu-Natal JAMA Oncology, stated that about 19,160 deaths last year could be attributed to cervical, lung and oesophageal cancer. He further said that “the disease burden of cancer is growing in South Africa, and health infrastructure and resource allocation will not be capable of dealing with it unless substantial changes are made, and more dedicated funding is realised.” The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), states that between 2005 and 2015, there was a 33% increase in cancer patients. The most common cancer for men globally is prostate cancer, with 1.6 million cases reported. For women, the most common cancer is breast cancer, with 2.4 million cases. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for women with a total of 523,000 deaths.

Although breast cancer is the most common cancer for women, cervical cancer is the deadliest, which resulted in 5,406 deaths last year. Fitzmaurice, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, said that “the cancer divide is real and growing”. (http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/health/body/cancer-burden-in -south-africa-7188178).

Cancer causes more deaths in South Africa than HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined. In a special report by Discovery Health Medical Scheme (Discovery), it quantifies the scheme’s spending on cancer-related claims and reinforces the need for greater cancer awareness. (https://anconmedical.com/cancer-burde-in -south-africa/

Unlike malignant tumours, benign tumours do not spread into, or invade, nearby tissues. However, benign tumours can sometimes be quite large. When removed, they usually don’t grow back, whereas malignant tumours sometimes do. Unlike most benign tumours elsewhere in the body, benign brain tumours can be life-threatening.

How to Prevent Cancer or identify it early



Depending on your personal health history, family health history, or screening results, your doctor may recommend a screening schedule. Screening means checking your body for cancer before you have symptoms. Getting regular screening tests may help to find breast, cervical, and colorectal (colon) cancer early, which is when treatment is likely to work best. Lung cancer screening is recommended for some people who are at high risk.


Some cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a very common sexually transmitted infection. The HPV vaccine protects against HPV that most often cause these cancers.

  • HPV vaccination is recommended for pre-teens aged 11 to 12 years but can be given at the age of 9.
  • The HPV vaccine is recommended for everyone through to the age of 26 if they are not vaccinated already.
  • HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than the age of 26. However, some adults between the age of 27 to 45 who are not vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine. HPV vaccination in this age range has fewer benefits because more people may have already been exposed to HPV.


Hepatitis B Vaccination

Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus can cause lifelong infections, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. The Hepatitis B vaccine is available for all age groups to prevent HBV infection.