CANCER KILLS BOTH RICH AND POOR â€“DR. EROMWON NORUWA, NIGERIAN ONCOLOGIST BASED IN AMERICA
My experience as an oncologist I am an intensive care specialist with a focus on cardiology and oncology. Cardiology has to do with the heart while oncology has to do with cancer.
I have seen a lot of chemotherapy in my life time that I think it is better for us to prevent cancer than to cure it. I think a lot of us are not aware of this fact. They think it can happen to 'John' but it cannot happen to them. I and a couple of other doctors decided to come back to Nigeria and let people know that the only treatment to cancer is prevention.
We have chemotherapy, but let us take an inventory of those people that went through it. How do you think they are now? I tell you, most people that I know, who said they went through chemotherapy, were in the pre-cancer stage, most of the time. You can actually undergo chemo in the pre-cancer stage. I still insist that the best treatment to cancer is prevention. It is only when you undergo screening that you will know that you are in that stage, then you can treat it ;so that it does not turn into a full blown cancer.
Cancer not a disease for only the rich
You don't get to hear about the other people that died of cancer because they are not prominent people. But they still die. My classmate just died of cancer. People die of cancer but they don't need to put the cause of their death in the obituary. Some people, because they don't know that what they had was cancer, go about treating it another way. When you tell them they have cancer, they might decide to use something else to cure it. Then again, it depends on the doctor you go to. If you go to a general practitioner, he might tell you what you have is malaria. Unless he is updated, that is when he will tell you to go to a specialist to diagnose what the real ailment is. Cancer can kill anybody, no matter the age, size or class.
How to detect a cancerous growth
To determine if a growth on the body is caerous, you have to do a biopsy. Even if you take off the growth, in the US where I practise, you will still do a biopsy. That is when you will determine whether it is cancerous. If it is not cancer, they will tell you to leave it alone. A growth does not mean you have cancer.
Causes of cancer
Cancer affects most parts of the human body. There is cancer of the colon, cancer of the liver, skin cancer and several others. It is caused by free radicals. These are incomplete cells. We are all made up of cells. Cells are made up of atoms. Atoms have molecules on top of them. On top of the atoms are crowned molecules. In the process of having the molecules, radiation, the sun, dust, inhaling of generator fumes, process of digesting your food, can knock off a molecule on your atom. Some people eat and they over eat. It might not only be through over eating, it might be the cause of you, breaking down your food, there are things in your food that your body cannot digest. It keeps moving around you body as radicals. They cannot come out. These radicals are the main causes of cancer.
The antidote to these free radicals are anti oxidants. That is what God has given to the cells to protect them. The more anti oxidants you have, the less free radicals in your body and the less chances of your having cancer. When free radicals knock off a molecule, the molecule becomes incomplete. It won't be able to do anything.
Studies have shown that second hand smoking is a risk factor for cancer. It has been shown that some people that never smoked but had spouses who smoked, were diagnosed of cancer. Smoking is a risk factor, generator fume is a risk factor.
The incubation period for cancer takes a long time. It is not something that happens in a minute. It could take five years, it could take 10 years. It depends on the person's body. Some people might say they are not affected. Some might even die before they are diagnosed. But there is an incubation period. When somebody tells you he has been diagnosed of cancer, it menas that it has been there for a long time. It did not happen over night. He would have been in the pre-cancer stage for a long time before it developed to full cancer, and that is when the person really gets sick. That means virtually most of the cells in your body would have become affected.
A need for public re-orientation
I tell people about the skin as well. The skin is also a factor. The skin is a gate. It opens up to dust and generator fumes and all of that. We do things about the skin. The ozone layer is stripped off in Nigeria. We try to make people become aware of what the sun can do to their skin and what you can do to help your skin. The sun can give you burns. The only sun that can give you vitamin D is the early morning sun, anything else, you are just scorching your skin. People still have that old orientation that dirt and sun do not kill an African man. We have to start having a new orientation. We don't connect what we put in our mouth with what comes out of our body. I am sure the average Nigerian does not want to look at what comes out of his body. But that is really the best way to know how sick or healthy you are.
I have been giving seminars and talks here and there. I give talks in churches as well. I try to do some screenings with my partners as well when we get time for it.
A lot of people have been very reactive. Many people still think cancer is a 'big man' disease. Our mind-set and health orientation need to change. We do more of reactive measures here. We wait for things to happen before we take care of it but by then, it will be late. We need to start changing. Our priorities are different. We want to save up and buy the best cars and houses but we don't have the health to live in those houses. When you buy all the houses and cars, you might end up selling them to treat cancer. Prevention is cheaper than the cure. We need to really screen our body.
Screening for cancer
We have the prostrate screening for cancer. You can also do the screening for the anti oxidant and see the levels. You cannot actually determine how much free radicals you have but you can determine how much anti oxidants you have. You have to make sure it is higher so that you can always combat free radicals. As long as you are living, you must have free radicals. You have to do anti oxidant screening. You can scan yourself and know your level. You will see it. It's not a guess work. You may be busy pursuing your money now. But when that sickenss comes, you will not be pursuing money again.
We all have free radicals in our system but how much anti oxidant do you have to pull that out of your system? That is what determines who has cancer or not. Other factors that causes cancer, including your lifestyle can be modified. Those who have family history of cancer should even be the ones that should do the screening faster than any other person so as to know their base line. The symptom of cancer is so slow for you to even notice it. But all of a sudden, it will just come and the person is dead and that is because there was no screening. It is very difficult for you to see somebody die just like that in the US these days. Everybody is aware and everybody is doing his best to prevent it. Your regular yearly check up will not show you if you have cancer genes or not.
Cancer and heredity
Lets take it this way: the incubation period takes a long time. If somebody has a mutilated gene or cell, you will not know. It will not show in the child. You will just pass on the mutilated genes. You should know that mutilated genes replicates. Mutilated gene is a free radical and it replicates. Replication brings about cancer plus the ones the radiation will add again. Cancer is a combination of mutilated gene that is dividing plus the one radiation will cause. That means you really need to have your anti oxidant up and up. There was this actress that took off her breast and she eventually died. Before then, her mother died of breast cancer. The actress had breast cancer genes in her. She got it from her mother. Cancer has to do with the genes. Our DNA contains cells and these cells replicates and becomes nerves, muscles and all that. If you are going to have a child, will you not pass DNA to it? That is where they get the genes and you might not even know and then 20 years down the line, it will just surface.
If your anti oxidant is low, then you start beefing it up. The doctor will give you options. That is the way to go about it.
Why I speaciallised in oncology and cardiology
I studied medicine at the University of Maryland. It wasn't as if I lost somebody through cancer but I saw the pains that go with cancer. I saw the money spent on it and I saw the waste. People get wasted from chemotherapy. I started to see people die. You would just be helpless. I don't know how else to describe it. It is just a helpless situation. The only way you can help yourself is to prevent it. Chemotherapy will wipe you out completely. You will even die anyway and then you must have spent all your life's savings on it. That was why we decided to come to Nigeria to talk about it and let more and more people become aware of it.
I don't want to say it is impossible but is it is very rare for chemotherapy to cure cancer. The chances of chemo is less than 12 percent. It is kind of hard. It is an uphill battle. You will be going back and forth. It is draining. It will drain you both emotionally and financially. It is a toll on the family. Most people who say they got cure of cancer after undergoing chemotherapy, they were not really diagnosed of cancer. They probably were in the precancerous stage and not the stage one.
My work and marriage
My husband is not a medical doctor, but he is used to the kind of work I do. We talk about it. He is aware of everything. He is very informed. He has been in the US for a long time and when you are there, you are open to see a lot of things.
But I don't practise medicine any more. I don't want to be doing surgery or anything like that again. If you continue to cut people up, after a while, you will get tired of it and you do more of enlightenment. That is what I do now. I have seen a lot of people die. I got sick of it. All we have to do is to prevent these diseases and we will be okay. If somebody cuts off your breast and tells you the cancer will not spread and it eventually spreads, what will you do? This is a disease that cannot be determined. The prognosis is morbid.
Preventing high pressure
We would like to have a trauma hospital, with all the equipment, to this country.
Apart from cancer, I talk to people about high blood pressure and diabetes. I think high blood pressure can be prevented. A lot of people don't even know they can get a baseline of their blood pressure. I have found out that a lot of people consume so much alcohol. If you ask people what their blood pressure is, they will tell you they don't know. Some people don't even know the parameter for blood pressure has changed. It is no more 120 /80. It is now 110 /70. This changed five years ago. High blood pressure is a silent killer. You wont know you even have it. There is nothing to show that you have it but all of a sudden, you will just fall down.
Diabetes is a very destructive disease. Our food is high in starch. It is not that we have to stop eating our food but you really have to be mindful of what you eat. I don't think a lot of people are aware of exercises. You need to stop eating at night. There are people who eat pounded yam at night. Some people eat rice and all that at night. How will the food digest? Your last meal can be at 6. 30 pm. You have to drink a lot of water. I don't think people drink much water in this country. Some of us don't know the difference between hunger and thirst. Sometimes, our body will just need water, but we think we are hungry and we consume food that we are not supposed to eat.