October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
It is a campaign that runs every year to increase the awareness of the ailment. The campaign aims at helping those affected by breast cancer directly or indirectly, through early detection, all necessary information and education, and how to access support services, which include treatment and palliative care.
The Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2018 began on Monday, October 1 and will run through Wednesday, October 31.
The awareness efforts have gained much traction over the last few years, with thousands of campaigns running world over in a bid to avail as much information as possible to every woman.
Many women in the thousands who are affected get help every day only with the right person to offer a helping hand as well as get access to the right information.
Breast Cancer in Numbers
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is by enormous magnitudes the commonest cancer in women world over, affecting both young and old, in developing and developed countries alike.
In 2008, IARC Globocan estimated 1.38 million new cases resulting to 458,000 deaths every year.
WHO also estimates a rise in the incidences in middle-income countries. She alludes this rise to the increasing urbanization, life expectancy and adoption of the western lifestyle. The majority of deaths, estimated at 269,000, occur in these low and middle-income earning populations where women are diagnosed late because of inaccessibility of health services as well as lack of awareness to early detection.
While it is known as a disease that affects women, breast cancer also affects men. Every year about 350 men are diagnosed with breast cancer. This adds to the urgency for more research into the disease.
Up to 50 per cent of all cancer cases can be prevented! This is good news! Prevention offers the most cost-reliable cancer control strategy. It also assures longevity when one keeps away from exposure to cancer risk factors. It is everyone’s duty to adopt healthy lifestyles as a first step to deal with cancer.
Some of the factors that expose the population to cancer risks include;
- Use of Tobacco, including smoking, second-hand smoke and smokeless tobacco.
- Physical inactivity, dietary factors, obesity and being overweightUse of Alcohol.
- Infectious agents like Helicobacter pylori, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B and C, and Epstein-Barr virus.
- Environmental pollution.
- Occupational carcinogens and radiations.
Early Diagnosis and Screening
Just like any other type of cancer, Early diagnosis plays a pivotal role in the management of breast cancer. The earliest the breast cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of successful management and treatment, basically by focussing on symptom detection.
The reverse is also true. Delayed detection and failure to access cancer care reduces the likelihood of the patient surviving. It also leads to greater treatment morbidity and high care costs. The consequences for these can be overarching! They include deaths and disabilities from the malady that could have been avoided by early detection.
Early diagnosis, to a huge extent, reduces the number of symptomatic patients who are diagnosed at a late stage. The figure shows the three steps to early diagnosis. (Source: WHO)
How to check the breasts
No one is a pro at checking abnormalities with the breasts. As such, there is no special technique for checking. You only need to know how your breasts feel like when they are normal. This will make it easier for you to spot anything unusual. The standard is to check the whole breast area all the way to the upper chest area and the armpits.
Look for lumps, pain, especially the ones that persist for a long time. Look also for changes in size, shape and texture of the skin, inflammation and changes in colour. You may also see other noticeable changes like one nipple looking different from the other or a discharge from either of the nipples and /or rashes around the nipple area.
Check with the doctor as soon as possible if there are unusual changes or feelings. It is always important to check out for all these regularly despite regular screening.
Sometimes you may have some of these symptoms but that does not necessarily mean a positive diagnosis of breast cancer. The doctor is the only person to confirm presence or absence. But even with the doctor, they may have to refer you to a breast clinic or breast specialist for further tests.
Diagnosis, Treatment and Palliative Care
A pathological examination is a key component to diagnosis before a patient is taken through the management regimen. An image-guided procedure may be needed to take a biopsy on a tumour. Good pathological services that accurately analyse and interpret the samples from patients inform better diagnosis, treatment and management of the patient.
Essentially, this is vital to planning a management regimen to either cure or to offer the best possible quality of life for survivors in a way that is equitable and sustainable, accurate in diagnosis and staging and adheres to evidence-based standards of care.
Involving the Society #WearItPink
The Worldwide campaign involves, individuals and thousands of organisations to bring to light breast awareness, education and research.
The fight over this deadly malady calls everyone to get involved and support during the month of October through raising awareness, support an affected family and a patient, as well as raise funds for research.
Wearing it pink is a tradition that has been adopted by many organization to give moral support for those affected. Pink because breast cancer awareness uses the pink ribbon.
So, Get Involved!
Get involved through the campaigns. These campaigns help many women to get access to cancer screening, drugs etc. By simply sharing information women need to know about breast screening and offering support, you count among the few who save lives. Let us work towards the day where breast cancer no longer claims our women’s lives!
More Practical ways to help
- Download the attached Breast Health Guide and share it widely
- Share your story or that of a loved one and how you were affected by breast cancer
- Join the campaign and create awareness #OctoberISCancerAwarenessMonth
- Support and make donations to a cause that is involved in cancer research
- Volunteer to help a family and/or patients affected
- Share Educational Content on Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter