The focus of modern medicine has shifted from curative measures to include preventative measures. In many cases, cancer can be managed and treated more effectively if it is detected earlier. Therefore, in our fight against cancer, we should be aware of what symptoms we can look out for, so that we can increase the likelihood of detecting abnormalities earlier and seeking immediate medical advice. Remember that, in general, one must consult one’s doctor if one is experiencing any concerning symptoms, and not just the ones that are listed in this article.
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer affecting women in South Africa. While the disease can affect women of any age, two thirds of cancer cases occur in women over the age of 50.
Self examinationThe breasts should be examined at the same time every month, preferably a few days after the end of the menstrual cycle. If post-menopausal, one can perform the examination on the first or last day of the month in order to maintain a routine.
It is important to ask your doctor to demonstrate how to perform an effective breast self-examination. A woman should examine her breasts at least once a month in order to really get to know her own breasts and thus be able to detect any changes as early as possible.
Who is at a higher risk of developing breast cancer?
The following women have a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer. Remember that this does not mean that a person with these risk factors will necessarily develop breast cancer and that there may, in fact, be other risk factors.
- Women who have a family member (especially a mother or a sister) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer
- Women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer
- Childless women or women who had their first child after the age of 35
- Women whose menstrual cycles commenced at a very early age and women who experienced a late menopause
- Women who follow a high fat diet
How can we fight breast cancer?
- Examine one’s breasts regularly
- Undergo regular breast and physical medical examinations
- Contact one’s doctor immediately should one detect any change in your breast, experience any breast discharge or bleeding or have any other concerns
- Speak to one’s doctor about mammograms
- Follow a healthy balanced diet, maintain a regular exercise programme