The month of October is characterised by the observance of many events globally, one of the most notable and popular being Breast Cancer Awareness, which is observed across the world. The observation of breast cancer awareness is important and necessary in order to raise awareness to the prevalence of the cancer, as well as the importance of early detection and treatment of breast cancer.
According to the World Health organisation, there are about 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer each year.
The CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) describes Breast cancer as a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. There are different kinds of breast cancer, however, kind of breast cancer depends on the cells in the breast that become cancerous. Although in the past breast cancer was thought to only affect women, in recent years it has been confirmed as also affecting men. Male breast cancer however is rare as it accounts for 1% of all breast cancers. Despite breast cancer being non-discriminatory in regard to gender, it is reported to be a hundred times more common in women than in men.
Finding out that one has breast cancer, or that a loved one has breast cancer, can be extremely terrifying. There may be so many things that run through one’s mind; such as the severity of the breast cancer, the options for treatment, the affordability, etc. In order to handle this challenge effectively, all parties need to ensure that the information on hand is factual so as to avoid any unnecessary panic or the use of incorrect treatment options. Selecting the best or a reputable medical practitioner for the treatment plan selected, will no doubt provide much needed relief during the treatment process. Turning to the medical practitioner, counsellors or even seeking assistance and support from relevant local organisations, such as CANSA, will go a long way towards assisting those affected with the necessary coping mechanisms.
The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and the CDC offer some risk factors with regards to the prevalence of breast cancer. The risk factors for cancer increase as one grows older, however, due to our lifestyles there are increasing numbers of people under the age of 40 being diagnosed with breast cancer, such as those with a family history of breast cancer who are particularly at a higher risk. However, being overweight, inactive, alcohol consumption, poor dietary habits, smoking and exposure to chemicals, also increase one’s risk.
Apart from combating the above listed risk factors, one can also reduce the risk through regular examinations which may assist with early detection that in turn provides an opportunity for early treatment interventions, which are often successful in treating breast cancer. Examination may be through:
While not all breast lumps indicate cancer, they should be investigated, especially if accompanied by other changes in breasts or the under arm area, such as lumps, texture changes, thickening, dimpling, changes in shape or size of nipples or breasts, tenderness, discharge, rash or swelling, or one breast suddenly being slightly larger than the other.
A Clinical Breast Examination (CBE) is a visual and manual examination of the entire breast, from the collarbone to the bra line, and from the armpit to the breast bone. It is advisable to have a CBE as part of your annual medical check-up.
Mammograms (a special x-ray to detect lumps in the breast), do not prevent breast cancer, but they can save lives by detecting breast cancer as early as possible. It is recommended that women from the age of 40 should go for an annual mammogram, for purposes of non-symptomatic breast screening, while women 55 years and older, should have a mammogram every two years.
The MammaPrint test, which is a genomic test that analyses the activity of certain genes in early-stage breast cancer.
Although treatment options for breast cancer vary depending on, but not limited to, the type of cancer one has been diagnosed with, the extent to which it has spread, certain risk factors, etc., when caught early, localised cancers can be removed without resorting to breast removal (mastectomy). Based on this, it is without a doubt that awareness is invaluable towards combating and treating breast cancer effectively. We all can do our bit by raising awareness and becoming champions for breast cancer awareness and even save a life in the process.
MISA continues to make strides to help and encourage its members to live healthy balanced lives. Through the Healthy MISA Women benefit, MISA pays out R2 500 (per female member) per annum to 200 eligible members, who attend to their health by doing a mammogram or pap smear during 1 January and 31 December, based on the applicable terms and conditions of the benefit.
Further, MISA offers the Healthy MISA Member benefit where MISA pays out R2 500 per member, per annum to 200 eligible MISA members who were off sick from work for a period of two days or less from 1 January to 31 December, and who attend at least one medical examination or participate in at least one wellness campaign during the year, based on the applicable terms and conditions of the benefit.
Contact MISA for more information on the Healthy Members’ Benefits either by contacting Claims@misa.org.za or calling 011 476 3920.
For more information or any assistance, contact CANSA, who apart from providing additional information, can also guide you through the public health system.
Toll-free number: 0800 22 66 22