October is a Breast Cancer month. This is time when health professionals make a special appeal to all to seriously consider checking their breasts so they would know if they have the breast cancer, or not. Sister Bongiwe Sithole of the University’s Clinic, said that cancer is a “debilitating disease that affects people across all races and class structures. Breast cancer in particular is the most common cancer affecting South African women, with one in 31 women diagnosed in her lifetime,” said Sister Sithole. Sister Sithole said that according to World Health Organization, approximately 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the year 2020, and 685 000 deaths globally. Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases develop in men and only one in a thousand men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Rajendrie Govender, a Lecturer in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, said that despite significant strides in treatment modalities, the global burden of breast cancer remains high.
Both Sithole and Govender said that “knowing what is normal for your body, and reporting any changes to your doctor or nurse, is important for investigation which leads to early diagnosis, treatment and positive prognosis.” They ask staff and students to perform regular breast self-examination every month, preferably after menstrual cycle for early detection. “Mammogram helps detects breast cancer as early as possible,” said Sister Sithole.
Sister Sithole added that the risk of developing breast cancer increases as women grow older. However, even women under the age of 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer, said Sister Sithole. Some circumstances that may lead to cancer are family history of breast cancer; being overweight, especially after menopause; sedentary lifestyle; early onset of menses; first pregnancy after 30 years of age; excessive alcohol consumption and smoking; and poor dietary habits.