Actress Christina Applegate (36) is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, but the disease was caught early and the actress is expected to fully recover, her publicist said.
The Emmy winner's cancer was detected through an MRI ordered by a doctor and is not life-threatening, publicist Ame Van Iden said in a statement.
So where to from here for the Samantha Who? actress? According to Martha Molete, (Head of Communication at the Cancer Association of South Africa), her chances are good given that the cancer was detected early and she is undergoing treatment.
"Early detection and treatment of all cancers is very important, and this includes breast cancer. That is why Cansa encourages all women from the age of 18 to check their breasts every month, a week after their monthly period, for changes, swelling, pain, discharge etc. and to go for a mammogram on her doctor’s advice after the age of 40," she said.
Aggressiveness of cancer depends of type
And despite the fact that many people assume that breast cancer is more aggressive in younger women, Molete says this is not necessarily true.
"There are different kinds of breast cancer and some are more aggressive than others, for example women with an over-expression of the HER-2 gene are at risk of a very aggressive form of breast cancer. Generally speaking the majority of breast cancer cases are in women over 50 and the risk continues to increase with age. However, there is an increase in women younger than 40 presenting with breast cancer."
Since Applegate's cancer was caught relatively early, her treatment will likely include surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy – and Molete says it could be a one, two or a combination of all three.
"This depends on the stage of the cancer and other issues the oncologist and surgeon need to take into consideration," she said.
Breast cancer in SA
According to Cansa statistics, breast cancer is the most common women’s cancer in South Africa with one in 26 women diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. They also estimate that more than 3 000 women die each year from breast cancer in South Africa.
This is one of the reasons they highly recommend regular self examination as early diagnosis can make the cancer much easier to treat.
"Every woman needs to examine their breasts and underarm area every month, a week after her monthly period, to check for lumps, unusual swellings, puckering of the skin, sores, pain, rashes or any other possible symptoms of breast cancer. If you have these symptoms, go to a health professional without delay," urges Molete.
She added that while most lumps (eight out of 10) are not cancerous, all lumps must be checked. The sooner you detect the cancer and get treatment, the better your chances of a full recovery.
Breast cancer risks include:
- A diet high in fat
- Lack of exercise
- Overweight or you drink more than two glasses of alcohol per day.
You are also at higher risk if:
- You are over 40
- Your mother or sister had breast cancer
- You started your period at a young age
- You went through menopause at a late stage
- You had children after the age of 40 or not at all.
For more information on cancer, call CANSA toll-free at 0800 22 66 22.
Sources: Sapa, Cansa,
Health24.com, August 2008