Breast cancer is the most common cancer among South African women, and it’s increasing. October marks the month of breast cancer awareness encouraging women to make their health a priority, not only during this month but throughout the year. Women should know what is normal for their bodies and what isn’t…and being aware of cancer symptoms may help to detect breast cancer earlier.
It’s hugely critical to empower women with knowledge to lower their risk and to recognise warning signs. All women are at danger, especially when breast cancer is part of your family history. Statistics show that women in their 30s have a chance out of 227 (0.4%) to be diagnosed, whereas women between 40 and 50 have a risk of roughly 1 in 68 (1.5%), and women aged 60 to 70 have the highest chance of 1 in 28 (3.6%).
Let’s face it. No woman ever wants to find herself in this position, but some unforeseen things happen in life. Therefore, annual medical check-ups and cancer screening for early detection are vital. Sometimes the symptoms aren’t present until cancer has spread, so here is where women should put themselves first, for a change.
Early detection can lead to effective treatment and a positive prognosis. It could reduce pain and suffering and significantly decrease the loss of life. In fact, 90% of patients live many years after being diagnosed at early stages.
Self Breast Examination
It’s recommended to do monthly self-examinations in front of the mirror and look for lumps, texture changes, thickening, dimpling, changes in shape or size of nipples or breasts, tenderness, discharge, rash or swelling, or one breast suddenly being slightly larger than the other. Not all lumps indicate cancer, but should definitely be investigated.
If you see any changes, contact your nearest CANSA Care Centre for a Clinical Breast Examination to examine the entire breast from collarbone to bra line, and from the armpit to the breast bone. If they detect any abnormalities, they’ll refer you to a medical professional for further testing – either a mammogram or mammaprint (genomic testing).
There’s also the option to attend medical activations by organisations such as Pink Drive for testing services. They also accept donations if you feel the need to support other medically uninsured ladies by donating or purchasing any of their online products.
Lowering the Risk
If you are concerned about developing breast cancer, there are some lifestyle changes you can make:
- Limit alcohol intake to less than one drink a day as even small amounts increase the risk.
- Don’t smoke as there’s a link between breast cancer and smoking, especially in premenopausal women.
- Control your weight as obesity increases the risk, especially after menopause.
- Be physically active to help maintain a healthy weight and prevents breast cancer.
- Breastfeed because the longer you breastfeed, the greater protection.
- Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy and look for alternatives as a combination of hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk.
- Maintain a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Use olive oil instead of butter and fish rather than red meat.
Take care, ladies and wear those pink ribbons!