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"CANCER: Insidious … Taufaasese"

Co-principal Investigator, INSPIRE project consultant, Tautai Lavea’i

It seems as though a funeral is happening every week. Loved ones, acquaintances, total strangers memorialized in pictures from healthier times – younger, smiling, and oblivious to the time bomb that is their physical body.

Insidious, or ‘taufaasese’, means deceptive.

In medical terms it means ‘a disease that progresses gradually with inapparent symptoms’ (MediLexicon, 2018). It sneaks up on you, it gives no fair warning, and it is evil.

For example, ‘Cancer is an insidious disease’. It can grow, without pain or other symptoms, and spread throughout your body, over time without warning. It can evade blood tests, mammography, Pap smears, CT scans, biopsies. And once found, it can fight treatments and prayers and the best of intentions.

Another example, ‘Fatu fa’ama’i o le taufaasese’, or ‘heart disease is deceptive’.  Clogged arteries, shortness of breath, high cholesterol and blood pressure — symptoms that we may all experience at some point in life. But no one knows exactly when that heart will stop ticking . . . when it is all too much for that little muscle, the size of your fist, to keep pumping.

However, unlike heart disease, for which there is a much greater knowledge of treatment and cure, cancer is unique to the biology of the patient.

Pancreatic cancer, for example, is most commonly diagnosed at Stage IV or inoperable Stage III. By the time it has spread (metastasized) there will be over 60 mutations evolving in the disease. These mutations will determine whether a treatment will work, how quickly the disease will grow and spread, types and severity of symptoms. While there are many variables in the treatment of heart disease as well, no other disease is as taufaasese as cancer.

What to do, what to do?  Is it hopeless?

Prevention … Puipuiga

What we can do is the best that we can to protect our bodies from disease; keep them strong, keep them resistant.

The Mayo Clinic is composed of over 4700 doctors and scientists across the U.S. who are relentless in their search for successful treatments and cures for cancer. Mayo is recognized as the ‘best hospital in the nation in 2018-2019’. Here’s what the best and brightest medical minds in America recommend:

  • •        Don't use tobacco. (Any type of tobacco, and smoke from tobacco — cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco will cause cancer)
  • •        Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active (push your body to move everyday)
  • •        Protect yourself from the sun (use sunscreen)
  • •        Get immunized (HPV vaccines for teens at the health clinics; HEP A, B, and C for adults at DOH)
  • •        Avoid risky behaviors (stay away from smoke – BBQ, umu, trash, cigarette; don’t drink alcohol)
  • •        Get regular medical care (listen to your body – go to the doctor for a check up when you know your body is not feeling right – don’t wait!)
  • •        Eat a healthy diet …

By avoiding foods that increase your risk of cancer and eating more of those that strengthen your body, you can protect your health and boost your ability to fight off cancer and other diseases.

Eat lots of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, and healthy fats. Oxidants are molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Limit the amount of processed and fried foods, unhealthy fats, sugars and carbs you eat.

Fiber, also called roughage, is found in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains (oatmeal, granola, wheat bread) which keeps your digestive system clean and healthy. It moves cancer-causing agents through your digestive tract before they can create harm. Eating a diet high in fiber will help prevent colorectal cancer and other common cancers, including stomach, mouth, and pharynx.

There’s no magic food guaranteed to cure or prevent cancer but a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, healthy meals, a clean environment and positive attitude is the best defense against all diseases.

It is also very important to do all the recommended cancer screening available to you. All screening is available at LBJ: mammogram, FOBT, colonoscopy, Pap smear, prostate test. Call to set up your appointment today!