Take action during Breast Cancer Awareness month

Annually, October marks “Breast Cancer Awareness month”.

During this month, awareness about breast cancer risks and signs are shared with the public and support is offered to those suffering from this illness.

According to studies, early detection remains key to controlling cancer. This means, early and adequate diagnosis can lead to effective treatment, resulting in an excellent chance to cure breast cancer. Therefore, women must empower themselves with the knowledge to lower their health risks. Furthermore, they should be able to address the warning signs of cancer as quickly as possible.

In South Africa, breast cancer is known to be one of the most common cancers among women of all races. All women are at risk, particularly women with a family history of breast cancer. Approximately 90% of patients survive breast cancer after diagnosis during early detection, but this should be 100% – a whole of society approach is required for this to be achieved.

South Africans are lucky to have an organisation such as CANSA (Cancer Association of South Africa) involved in lowering cancer risks and providing an integrated service to all people affected by cancer. CANSA continuously supplies the public with information and support. They are committed to offering day-to-day help, including emotional support to the patients.  Their mission is also to ensure that cancer survivors and loved ones aren’t alone in the fight against cancer.

In support of “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”, women are encouraged to go for annual medical check-ups and cancer screening; and familiarise themselves with the early warning signs and symptoms of cancer. It is also crucial for women to regularly check their breasts and visit health care practitioners if changes are noticed. Awareness of risk factors can help women reduce their cancer risk.

The following are common breast cancer signs and symptoms, which include:

  • a lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit – you might feel the lump but not see it;
  • a change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling;
  • a change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed;
  • a change to the nipple, for example, it has become pulled in (inverted);
  • rash or crusting around the nipple;
  • any unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple; and
  • changes in the size or shape of the breast.

Women must develop the habit of regularly checking their breasts, including the upper chest areas and armpits. The TLC technique (Touch Look Check) makes it easy.

  • Touch your breasts: can you feel anything unusual?
  • Look for changes: does anything look different?
  • Check any changes with your GP

Remember, early detection and awareness can result in an earlier diagnosis, resulting in better treatment outcomes. It is in the nature of a woman to put others first – however, women must realize they too have the right to prioritize their own health.

 

 

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