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AmaZulu striker Bonginkosi Ntuli’s death puts focus back on early detection of cancer

Delayed diagnosis is not uncommon, says Cansa’s Prof Herbst

Former Amazulu striker Bonginkosi Ntuli died of cancer
Former Amazulu striker Bonginkosi Ntuli died of cancer
Image: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images

The recent passing of football star Bonginkosi Ntuli has reignited the conversation on cancer and early detection.

Ntuli was rushed to hospital a month ago after complaining about chest pains before succumbing to his illness on November 5, which was then revealed to be cancer.  

The strikers father Thulani Ntuli said the family initially thought his son was hit with a bout of flu however, the diagnosis turned out to be advanced-stage lung cancer.

According to TimesLIVE, Ntulis father revealed this while speaking at the family home in KwaNyavu in KwaNyuswa where AmaZulu FC went to pay tribute on Tuesday.

“We thought it was just flu but when we realised it was getting worse we took him to hospital in Durban, but they couldnt figure out what was wrong.

“We decided to take him to another hospital in Pietermaritzburg because this ‘flu’ was not getting any better. There they discovered he had lung cancer,” said the strikers father.

Professor Michael Herbst from the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) said delayed diagnosis is not uncommon as many people are left undiagnosed due to a lack of access to medical care. This coupled with late testing and defaulting on treatment, which could be a result of the country’s socioeconomic factors, contribute to the cancer mortality rate.

With over 300 types of cancer, the most prevalent types in the country include breast and cervical cancer in women and prostate and colorectal in men. Prof Herbst explained that the most effective weapon to reduce cancer risk is knowledge of the disease and early detection.  

Some of the contributing factors to developing cancer include lifestyle such as obesity and lack of exercise; environmental – exposure to cancer-causing chemicals and radiation; and hereditary where about 10% of cancers occur in persons who have inherited mutations in cancer predisposition genes. 

Campaigning for Cancer chief executive officer Lauren Pretorius said cancer symptoms differed for each type therefore one must know their body and monitor any anomalies.  

“If there is something in your body that is not going right for more than three months, you need to go to the doctor. I would say that people need to start educating themselves on the different signs of all the common cancers.”

Some of the cancer symptoms to look out for include: 

Breast Cancer: Warning signs for breast cancer include a lump in the breast or armpit, a change in the skin around the nipple or nipple discharge, dimpling of the nipple or nipple retraction and an unusual increase or shrinkage in the size of one breast. 

Cervical Cancer: Symptoms of possible cervical cancer are abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, continuous vaginal discharges, menstrual periods becoming heavier and lasting longer than usual and increased urinary frequency. 

Prostate Cancer: Prostate cancer often occurs without any symptoms, however, once it is more advanced, men can experience frequent urination, straining to pass urine, leaking urine and in advanced stages, it can cause deep pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs.  

Colorectal Cancer: Many people do not experience symptoms. however, it is important to note a change in bowel habits, including diarrhoea and constipation, rectal bleeding or blood in stools, persistent abdominal discomfort. A feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely, weakness or fatigue and unexplained weight loss.

Prof Herbst explained that regular screenings become vital as they lead to early detection which, “leads to early diagnosis, early diagnosis leads to early treatment with a greater success rate for a cure and leads to a decrease in morbidity and mortality”.   

He advised screenings should be planned and scheduled with a physician where necessary. “Women above the age of 40 should self-screen breast cancer monthly, and once above 60 women should go for mammograms annually,” he said.  

The professor emphasised that to scan for cervical cancer, women must schedule a PAP smear and HPV test at least once every three years.  

To screen for colorectal cancer, both women and men are advised to go for a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, which examines your intestines – and this should be done every five years. 

The treatment of cancer varies from chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and even surgery. Prof Herbst adds that screening “is an essential part of daily living to ensure that incidence of cancer can be detected early so that early treatment can be instituted. This ensures early treatment and a greater chance of being in remission.”

To find out more about these and other cancer, visit the Cansa website at www.cansa.org.za  

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