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Symptoms, risk factors, treatment — what to know about throat cancer

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On Thursday, Ogbonnaya Onu, a former minister of science and technology in the Muhammadu Buhari administration, died aged 72.

Reports suggest that Onu, who was the first civilian governor of Abia state, grappled with throat cancer before his demise.

If you came across the news, you may have wondered for a quick minute about throat cancer and maybe imagined how the symptoms would physically manifest. Perhaps you imagined a lesion or even a swollen neck.

What is throat cancer?

It refers to a type of cancer that develops in the throat, also known as the pharynx.

The human throat is a muscular tube that begins behind the nose and ends in the neck. The voice box sits below the throat and contains the vocal cords.

The two types of throat cancer are pharyngeal and laryngeal cancers, also known as cancer of the pharynx and the larynx.

What are the symptoms of throat cancer?

Symptoms of throat cancer include persistent cough, sore throat, a lump in the throat that does not heal, changes in voice, such as hoarseness or not speaking clearly, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, and sudden weight loss.

What causes throat cancer?

Throat cancer occurs when cells in the throat develop genetic mutations that cause them to grow uncontrollably. The continuous growth kills the normal cells. Then, the accumulating cells can form a tumour in the throat.

It is not clear what causes the mutation that leads to throat cancer. There are, however, factors that can increase the risk of throat cancer.

These risk factors include a family history of cancer, smoking and chewing tobacco, excessive alcohol intake, viral infections including human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus, and a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables.

How can one reduce the risk of having throat cancer?

While there are no scientifically proven ways to prevent throat cancer, there are ways to reduce its risk such as eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, drinking alcohol in moderation, avoiding smoking, and protecting oneself from HPV.

How is throat cancer diagnosed?

Throat cancer diagnosis involves a few steps. A physical examination will be performed in which a doctor will examine the mouth and throat.

The examination also involves a series of blood tests, while an endoscopy will be carried out.

An endoscopy is when a thin tube with a light on its end is inserted through the nose to look for abnormalities in the throat.

A chest x-ray and computerised tomography (CT) scan may also be carried out.

How is throat cancer treated?

Treatment of throat cancer will depend on the size of the tumour, whether it has spread all over the place, and the overall health of the patient.

The doctor will first need to find out what stage of cancer the individual has, that is, how far it has spread. This helps to determine the best treatment options.

Surgery may be recommended depending on the tumour size and chemotherapy may also be required.

Health

Scientists discover blood proteins that could warn of cancer years before diagnosis

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Scientists in the UK say they have found proteins in the blood that could warn people of cancer more than seven years before it is diagnosed.

In two studies funded by Cancer Research UK, scientists identified 618 proteins linked to 19 types of cancer, including colon, lung, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and liver.

The proteins included 107 associated with cancers diagnosed more than seven years after the patient’s blood sample was collected, and 182 that were associated with a cancer diagnosis within three years.

In the first study, scientists studied blood samples from more than 44,000 people in the UK Biobank, including over 4,900 people who subsequently had a cancer diagnosis.

They found the proteins by comparing those present in people who did go on to be diagnosed with cancer and those who did not.

In the second study, the scientists looked at genetic data from over 300,000 cancer cases to find which blood proteins were involved in cancer development and could be targeted by new treatments.

The scientists found 40 proteins in the blood that influenced someone’s risk of getting nine different types of cancer.

The scientists concluded that some of these proteins could be used to detect cancer much earlier and potentially provide new treatment options.

‘FURTHER RESEARCH REQUIRED’

They however cautioned that further research is needed.

Ruth Travis, senior author of both studies, said to be able to prevent cancer, there needs to be an understanding of the factors driving the earliest stages of its development.

“These studies are important because they provide many new clues about the causes and biology of multiple cancers, including insights into what’s happening years before a cancer is diagnosed,” she said.

“We now have technology that can look at thousands of proteins across thousands of cancer cases, identifying which proteins have a role in the development of specific cancers, and which might have effects that are common to multiple cancer types.”

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Health

Scientists say a spoon of olive ‘anointing’ oil a day can save your life

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In many Nigerian churches, olive oil is used as a spiritual means of healing; it’s called anointing oil. It does have healing properties, though it’s not necessarily spiritual.

The Mediterranean diet—a diet rich in olive oil—causes better brain health and lowers heart disease risk. You can replace vegetable oil with olive oil for a healthier life.

Researchers found that replacing margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil daily reduces the risk of dementia death by 8–14%, but this benefit was not observed when using other vegetable oils or butter.

A scientific study with over 92,000 participants showed that a spoonful of olive oil might be linked to a reduced risk of death from dementia, regardless of whether the person had a good or bad dieting habit. People who included at least half a tablespoon (seven grammes) of olive oil daily saw a 28% lower risk of death than those who didn’t regularly consume it.

According to the researchers, olive oil’s antioxidant qualities may have an impact on why it contributes to longevity. These components may pass the blood-brain barrier, thereby directly affecting the brain and cardiovascular health, respectively.

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Health

One in 12 men tested in Lagos showed signs of prostate cancer, says Goke Akinrogunde

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Goke Akinrogunde, a medical practitioner and chairman of the honorary members’ forum of the Nigeria Air Force Officers’ Mess (NAFOM) Ikeja, says one in 12 men tested in Lagos showed signs of prostate cancer.

WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?

The prostate is the walnut-sized gland found in males.

It is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum, surrounding the urethra — the tube that carries urine out of the bladder.

The prostate makes some of the fluid that is part of semen.

When a man has prostate cancer, it means the cells in the prostate gland have begun to grow out of control.

It is unclear what causes these cells to grow out of control.

CREATING AWARENESS

Akinrogunde spoke at the HMF-NAFOM annual general meeting on Wednesday. The event held at the Sam Ethan Airforce Base, Ikeja.

The event which had A. I Sambo, president of the mess committee (PMC), and T. Abu, the base’ commander, in attendance, featured a health session themed: ‘Men’s health, women’s concern: erection and prostate matters’.

The HMF is the honorary civilian wing of the air force officers’ mess.

Akinrogunde noted that the meeting serves as an avenue for socialisation between the military and civilian members of the mess.

He emphasised the importance of addressing the health and wellness of older men, while citing the prevalence of prostate cancer in Nigeria as the rationale for the theme.

“This meeting is a good opportunity for the civilian and military members of the mess to interact. As civilians, we are in the civil society, it is important that we think of what will be beneficial to both segments of the mess and hence the topic,” he said.

“Prostate health is always very relevant and while the discussion might not be common, prostate cancer is quite common in out society. For example, there is a study that was conducted in Lagos sometime which shows that one out of twelve men tested showed signs of prostate cancer.

“This is a good opportunity to bring the awareness to our people.”

Taiwo Alabi, the guest lecturer, who was represented by Tunji Olakunle, an endourologist, said factors directly linked to the occurrence of prostate cancer include race, age and genetics.

He added that men aged 40 and above are encouraged to conduct the baseline prostate specific antigen (PSA) test every six months to detect the likely occurrence of prostate cancer.

He encouraged members to practise safe sexual activities and to seek appropriate medical intervention where necessary.

The event saw the inauguration of new executive members of the HMF by A. I Sambo.

The executive inaugurated included Goke Akinrogunde as the chairman; Bello Olanrewaju as the vice chairman; Azubuike Chuks as the general secretary; Adesina Babatunde as the treasurer; Uzu Onyeka John as the entertainment officer; Sokoya Olufemi as the public relations officer; and Shina Badaru as the chief adviser.

The PMC also awarded TheCable newspaper the ‘numero uno corporate partner’ for its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives for 2022-2023.

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Bodex F. Hungbo, SPMIIM is a multiple award-winning Nigerian Digital Media Practitioner, Digital Strategist, PR consultant, Brand and Event Expert, Tv Presenter, Tier-A Blogger/Influencer, and a top cobbler in Nigeria.

She has widespread experiences across different professions and skills, which includes experiences in; Marketing, Media, Broadcasting, Brand and Event Management, Administration and Management with prior stints at MTN, NAPIMS-NNPC, GLOBAL FLEET OIL AND GAS, LTV, Silverbird and a host of others

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