Breast cancer

07 April 2010

Breast cancer: know your diagnosis

This year's World Health Day campaign is 1000 cities, 1000 lives, with worldwide events organised during the week of 7 to 11 April which will focus on urbanisation and health.


This year's World Health Day campaign is 1000 cities, 1000 lives, with worldwide events organised during the week of 7 to 11 April which will focus on urbanisation and health.


World Health Day can be viewed as an opportunity to reflect on the growing phenomenon of breast cancer, in particular HER2-positive breast cancer, one of the most aggressive of all breast cancers.



HER2-positive breast cancer survivor Thea Marais said it was essential to clearly understand one’s diagnosis, get the right tests and ask the right questions.


"I would encourage anyone with a breast cancer diagnosis to find out their HER2 status. Knowing my HER2 status meant my doctors and I could make the right treatment decisions for me," she said.


According to Dr Daniel Vorobiof, Medical Oncologist and Director of the Sandton Oncology Centre, breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in women in developed and developing countries, but is also one of the most well-studied and treatable types of cancer.


Vorobiof encouraged women to be more aware of how their breasts normally look and feel, so that it becomes easier to spot any suspicious changes.


"Identifying a change early gives the best chance of effective treatment if a cancer is diagnosed."


The following points act as a guide to breast awareness:

  • Become familiar with the normal appearance of your breasts.
  • Know what changes to look and feel for.
  • Self-examine breasts regularly.
  • Report any changes to your doctor without delay.
  • Always attend routine breast screening.

Focused treatment

In recent years, cancer treatments had become more targeted, targeting the cancer cells themselves. Studies show that approximately 25% of breast cancer patients have tumours that are HER2-positive.

"The targeted treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer is different than the treatment of breast cancer that is not HER2-positive," says Vorobiof.


To understand whether these targeted treatments will be effective for you requires a far better knowledge of the characteristics of your tumour than was previously required, which calls for a greater range of diagnostic tests.


Accurate diagnosis of breast cancer is key, not only for establishing whether a cancer actually exists, but also for making well-informed decisions about treatment. This is important as it will sometimes have implications for many years to come.


"As our understanding progresses and new treatments are developed, early breast cancer is increasingly looking to be a curable disease – provided the right treatment choices are made early on. Even advanced or metastatic breast cancer is beginning to be seen as a chronic disease that women can live with for many years," says Dr Vorobiof. - (Health24, April 2010)


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Ask the Expert

Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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