The Breast Cancer Awareness Month October 1st to 31st.
October is breast cancer awareness month , it is an initiative meant to increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of the disease, it is marked in several countries across the world every October.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are about 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer each year and it is the most common cancer in women worldwide, both in the developed and developing countries. In low- and middle-income countries the incidence has been rising up steadily in the last years due to increase in life expectancy, increase urbanization and adoption of western lifestyles.
The causes of breast cancer is not sufficiently known, therefore early detection is key in controlling the disease and increasing chances of surviving it. Early detection coupled with proper diagnosis and treatment gives one a good chance of being cured, late detection on the other hand leaves one only with the option to access palliative care to relieve suffering as a cure may not be possible.
The WHO also states that a majority of deaths (269 000) occur in low- and middle-income countries, where most women with breast cancer are diagnosed in late stages due mainly to lack of awareness on early detection and barriers to health services.
How you can improve your breast cancer awareness
- Know your breasts. Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is an important part of breast health. Finding breast cancer as early as possible gives you a better chance of successful treatment. Observe your breasts to check for any changes in color, shape , size and skin texture.
- Know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded and even be painful. It is is good practice give yourself a breast self exam (BSE) atleast once a month to keep track of any changes in your breasts and incase you notice any change to get checked by a health care provider experienced in diagnosing breast diseases. If you would like to know how to perform a BSE please click this link: BSE
With regards to BSE, I have a personal story I would like to share with you. When I was about 16 years old, I felt a lump in my right side breast. It was painless and about the size of a grape. Now I had heard very little about cancer and what I knew about it was that it was an incurable and very painful disease. A classmate actually said that the moment one started feeling pain as a result of the cancer then one’s life would be close to the end. So here I was terrified and worried , I never confided in anybody . All I knew was that I would soon die and I carried this burden with me for two years. When I was 18 years old and waiting to join university, I had gained a little more information on cancer in general and also heard stories of people who had successfully undergone surgery and were okay, I realized that it may not be too late after all and still had a chance at life.
So I picked up courage and told my guardian this huge secret that had burdened me for two years. Oh boy, to say that she was angry after finding out that I had kept silent for two years is an understatement. She fell short of spanking me! Long story short, she immediately got me a consultation with a doctor who examined me and scheduled me the next day for surgery to remove the lump and have it tested. The procedure was successful and the results were negative, you cannot imagine my relief. I felt reborn and I realised how lucky and blessed I was to be found okay, not everyone is lucky to have negative results . Many have suffered the full brunt of breast cancer and lost the battle but there are also very many that have won the war on cancer. THe key is consistency in doing a BSE, having annual mammograms, living a healthy lifestyle and early detection
Other symptoms of breast cancer include;
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
I have witnessed the ugliness of Breast cancer directly through my two colleagues at work, I used to work in an office where the staff were quite close knit and involved in each other’s lives.
For the first colleague, In 2008, we were both pregnant and 7 months into the pregnancy she felt a lump in her breast and it was painful. She went to see her doctor and he advised that they remove the baby at 8 months THe do a mastectomy . WHen the baby was born, the surgery was performed and tests confirmed she had breast cancer. She was immediately put on chemotherapy and was to start radiation after. What I have learnt about cancer is that if the disease doesn’t kill you the treatment does. Defeating, cancer takes more than just medical treatment , it takes will power, determination to live and forcefully eating healthy to keep up your strength and immunity. The effects of the treatment without the right support and frame of mind can cause you to give up. MY colleague and friend lost her fight after a year leaving behind a hubby and four kids, the last one being my second child’s age mate. May She continually Rest In Peace….. amen.
My second colleague also underwent a double mastectomy and the full course of treatment. She was and is a fighter, whenever we visited her she would be the one encouraging and reassuring us. She would a always send messages to start a health you lifestyle , to avoid sugars, or consume more raw foods and the like. She managed to beat cancer and has been cancer free for over 5 years now.
I dedicate this post in memory of my colleague who lost her battle with breast cancer and also in honor to my colleague who is living a cancer free life; and to all those who have been impacted by breast cancer.
As a wrap, in case you need more information about breast cancer or any othother type of cancer, you can search online as there’s a lot of information but below are links and references to some resources I used that you can also use to get more information about breast cancer, support for yourself or a loved one and how you can be involved and get support