Sunday, May 18, 2008

Breast cancer is not the end

Two secrets of the ground-breaking TV show-turned-movie Sex and the City were revealed recently.
First, the four main actors in the show did not always get along well -- there was tension among them, especially between Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall, as the former was being paid more money than the others.
Second, Cynthia Nixon finally came out and told the public on May 9 that she had breast-cancer surgery a couple of years ago but kept it a secret to avoid the paparazzi.
"Well, I got my diagnosis about a year and a half ago. And, you know, I had this surgery and then I had radiation and I certainly didn't want to, you know, send out a press release right then. And I was trying to get through my treatment without having photographers at the hospital," she told CNN.
"When you tell someone you've had cancer, you know, they go into a panic. Being able to say I had this cancer about a year and a half ago and everything looks good, you know, much better to be able to tell people that."
For many people, cancer is a dreadful word that can make them jump from their seat. There is the perception that cancer is a killer and having breast cancer means losing everything -- health, wealth, breasts and hair.
Cancer is a disease caused by the abnormal growth of body cell tissue. The American Cancer Society estimated that about 465,000 women died from breast cancer globally in 2007 and 1.3 million new cases were diagnosed.
In Indonesia alone, breast cancer is the second-highest killer after cervical cancer. It is estimated that 10 out of every 100,000 people have developed breast cancer.
But having cancer does not necessarily mean the end of the world: Many people with cancer can still lead a productive and happy life.
Cynthia is living evidence. And she is not alone. Sheryl Crow, Melissa Eteridge and Olivia Newton-John are among world celebrities who live with breast cancer.
In the country, the most famous breast-cancer survivor is Rima Melati, who was born in 1939 and diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 50.
The former movie star is now active with the Jakarta Breast Health Foundation, which she established along with another cancer survivor, Linda Gumelar, to educate people about breast cancer (
Yuniko Deviana, a management and inter-personal skills trainer, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. But the disease did not affect her quality of life; she went on to write I Have Cancer, It Doesn't Have Me, and set up the Cancer Information and Support Center (
Early detection of breast cancer is important because the sooner the cancer is detected, the better the prognosis. Unfortunately, in Indonesia many breast-cancer sufferers seek medical treatment after their conditions are already at an advanced stage.
Late diagnosis of breast cancer can be fatal. However, a positive attitude is paramount in the life of cancer survivors. Panic or stress can only make things worse.
The American Cancer Society has issued three recommendations that can improve the quality of a cancer survivor's life: have five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, do a lot of physical activity and quit smoking.
A recent national survey involving 9,105 survivors from six different cancer groups confirmed that a change in lifestyle could improve health status and quality of life.
While 82-91 percent of cancer survivors had quit smoking, only 14-19 percent of were eating five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
An increase in physical activity was met by 29-47 percent of all cancer survivors. Overall, only 5 percent of survivors met all three of the recommendations.
Further analysis showed a better quality of life was observed among survivors who met all three lifestyle recommendations, particularly the physical activity recommendation.
Physical activity can include almost anything, from home activities, like maintaining a garden, to exercise and sports like brisk walking and swimming.
Yoga, stretching and weight lifting are also beneficial activities that improve strength and flexibility.
It may be hard to cure cancer, but people can live with it. And they can remain active, work as usual and lead a quality life.

The Jakarta Post, Wed, 05/14/2008, By T. Sima Gunawan , Contributor

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