Written by Nicole K. Duma
October is known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. This is symbolized by the color Pink. Breast cancer is one of the top cancers affecting women worldwide and increasing particularly in developing countries because majority of the cases are diagnosed in the late stages. This is mostly because society lacks adequate information regarding this ‘beast’. What then is this beast called Breast cancer? How do I know if I have it? Can I prevent it? If I have it, am I dying?
Let me help enlighten you…
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast… Okay let’s put it in layman’s language: When the cells in one’s body get old, they are supposed to die and be replaced by new cells. Unfortunately, there are some cases in which this does not happen. The old cells do not die and instead crowd with the multiplying new cells in the body resulting in the formation of a tumor. Breast cancer is thus a cancerous tumor which occurs in the breast. Got it? Great!
Everyone needs to be wary of some warning signs of breast cancer. You can take part in the Breast Self-Exam to find out. Sure, no breast is typical and what may be normal to one woman may be abnormal to another but some of the breast cancer symptoms according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include:
- New lump in the breast or armpit
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
- Pain in area of the breast
Keep in mind that some of these symptoms can be as a result of other medical conditions like fibrocystic breast conditions or cysts. It is advisable for you to communicate with your doctor the moment you have any of these signs and symptoms. For more information see the National Cancer Institute’s Breast Changes and Conditions.
The best prevention method for breast cancer and most common cancers is eating a varied and healthy diet, maintaining weight and regular physical activity. Whole foods that are naturally grown and high in fibre are your best bet. Refined and highly processed foods are a no! Alcohol intake must be reduced. Tobacco smoking, sniffing or chewing are to be avoided at all costs. Sometimes exposure to chemicals such as pesticides can be a threat. Last but not least, stress management is necessary for good health.
In the case that you have breast cancer and are opting for surgery you could get a Lumpectomy or Mastectomy. Lumpectomy- This is the removal of the tumor and a small, cancer-free margin of healthy tissue around the tumor (most of the breast remains). Mastectomy-This is the surgical removal of the entire breast. www.cancer.net
Did you know? The world’s Breast Cancer Statistics show that the average 5-year survival rate for women with non-metastatic invasive breast cancer is 91%. The average 10-year survival rate for women with invasive breast cancer is 84%. If the invasive cancer is located only in the breast, the 5-year survival rate of women with breast cancer is 99%. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation men get breast cancer too although it is quite rare.
Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, due to better screening and early detection, increased awareness and continually improving treatment options. Yay!!! There is hope at the end of the tunnel.
There are various organisations and support groups ready to cater for those suffering from breast cancer. These provide further information on Breast Cancer.
South Africa for example has: Adopt A Pink Piggy (APP), amaBele Belles, Breast Cancer Survivor, BreastSens (BS) and Breast Health Foundation (BHF), among others. In Zimbabwe we have The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe and Oncocare (Cancer Care) Zimbabwe, among others.
So don’t invite the Grim Reaper into your life yet you have all this information at the tips of your fingers. They say knowledge is power. Use this power to prevent the beast that is Breast Cancer from affecting you and your loved ones.
Breast cancer is a bent but not the end…