Awareness Crucial in Fighting Breast Cancer
One in 18 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer but if detected early, the chances of effective treatment is so much greater.
Breast cancer remains one of the most common cancers among women in South Africa, but recently, cases of men being diagnosed with breast cancer have become more evident.
The Western Cape Government Health has also seen encouraging signs which points towards a steady increase of both women and men coming forward to be tested for breast cancer.
“Though it is heartening to see the increases in the numbers of men and women coming for breast cancer screenings , there is still much work to be done to raise awareness in our communities,” said the Western Cape Minister of Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo.
“Early detection remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. Detecting breast cancer early gives patients the best possible chances of recovery,” added the Minister.
October is International Breast Cancer month and with it the WCG Health is intensifying its screening and awareness programmes to educate and inform women and men on the dangers of breast cancer, why it is important to be proactive and have your breast checked for possible cancer.
As part of the strategy to combat breast cancer, the WCG health has set up satellite clinics where a team of specialists visit areas not only to test, but also educate women and men. At Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH), the Breast Clinic has treated 1 551 patients who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2012 and 2015, roughly seeing 450 new cases per year.
Results in the Western Cape have been promising with 40 percent of patients diagnosed with early breast cancers early and 60% with late stage disease. Sister Galima Fish-Gamieldien, the breast cancer coordinator for GSH, has been in the coal face in changing the way people perceive breast cancer.
Cancer fighter Fish-Gamieldien, said “we are seeing more people diagnosed earlier because of all the awareness campaigns we have been driving together with our partners. What was more surprising was that older people were coming forward to be tested and we are hoping more people would come and be tested so that we can treat and educate.”
The Department, through its Healthcare 2030 vision, which strives for a person-centred holistic health service, commissioned a Breast Clinic at the Mitchells Plain Clinic. Annually the MP and the GSH breast clinic, attends to more than 8000 patients who are treated for breast cancer or checked for symptoms. This clinic is an outreach project of the Groote Schuur Hospital Breast Clinic and patients have direct access to that facility.
The clinic sees patients who have a clinical suspicion of breast carcinoma - any woman older than 30 with a palpable breast lump, spontaneous nipple discharge, skin retraction or ulceration, or any other features that raise the suspicion of breast carcinoma.
With the systemic treatment of breast cancer, the department identified the need to bring the service closer to the people and improve the survival of breast cancer patients and those at risk. The Mitchells Plain clinic is run only on Fridays and is open to both men and women.
Signs and Symptoms
There are specific signs/symptoms you should look for. The most common presenting complaint is that of a palpable lump in the breast. These lumps are often not painful. Other signs may include a bloody nipple discharge, skin changes and palpable lymph nodes in the axilla. Early breast cancers may be picked up by ultrasound or mammography before a lump can be felt.
Early detection and self-examination is vital
For women, monthly breast self-examination two days after the last day of your period is the most important screening method and costs nothing. If you are not sure how to perform breast self-examination, ask your doctor to show you how. Women over the age of 45 should consider going for regular mammography. Depending on each individuals unique risk profile, mammography should be discussed with your doctor. Younger women have denser breast tissue and would benefit more from an ultrasound examination than a mammogram.
Assistant Director: Communications
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