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Breast Cancer Awareness: Early Detection, Positive Treatment, Effective Outcomes

(The Southern African Times) – Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among South African women – and its incidence is rising. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

“South African women overall have a one in nine chance of getting cancer with breast cancer topping the list. White and Indian women are more prone to have breast cancer than black women and coloured women,” says the Cancer Association of South Africa. 

Early detection is undeniably a key to ensure effective treatment and a positive outcome of breast cancer treatment with about 90% of women diagnosed being effectively treated. 

“Known risk uncontrollable factors for breast cancer include age , family history, genetics and gender and controllable factors such as smoking, diet, body weight and physical activity levels,” added the Association.

Some people are a symptomatic but the signs and symptoms of breast cancer include a lump area on the breast, sores or ulcers not caused by injury or sores that do not heal, dimpling or pulling in of skin, change in colour, change in shape or size of either breast, change in direction of nipple, change in appearance of moles or skin, presence of a lump or thickening in the breast, a lump or knot in the underarm area or above or below collarbone among others.

However, there are several ways that can be used to detect for the disease. Groote Schuur Hospital says it is recommended that women begin to do regular Breast Self- Examination by the age of twenty. BSE consists of inspection (looking) and palpation (feeling). With regular examination, a woman will become aware of normal appearance and feel of her breasts so that any changes from normal will be easily recognized. BSE is simple, economical, safe and involves women in a health promoting behaviour.

There is also another way which can be used to check for breast cancer which is Clinical breast exam (CBE). This method can be performed by a physician, nurse or other specially trained healthcare professionals. Patients should request that CBE be included with their routine physical exam.  The exam should include both palpation and inspection of the axillary , infraclavicular and supraclavicular lymph nodes.

The last method that can be used is mammography which is a low dose x-ray of the breast taken from different angles. It is most sensitive screening method for the early detection of breast cancer in a symptomatic women ( women without breast problems). General population screening mammograms may detect breast cancer at earlier stage but it makes no difference on overall survival in screened population. It is recommended that women with a family history of breast cancer undergo regular mammograms.

Reported by Sharon Dewhe, South African based Correspondent

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