Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, in both developed and developing countries. Each year, over 1 million cases of breast cancer occur, and more than 400,000 women die from this cancer.
Most of the deaths that occur as a result of breast cancer are due to the fact that majority of women with this cancer are diagnosed in the late stage.
The lack of awareness on the importance of early detection of breast cancer which can lead to reduced number of deaths is one of the factors the breast cancer awareness month seeks to emphasize.
What is Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that affects breast tissue causing rapid and uncontrollable growth of malignant cells which lead to tumour formation. It can either be invasive or non-invasive:
- Invasive breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer that is found in the ducts of the breasts and has developed the ability to spread outside the breast.
- Non-invasive breast cancer refers to cancer found in the ducts of the breasts yet has no ability to spread outside the breast. Having invasive breast cancer does not necessarily mean that the cancer has to spread to other parts of the body.
The most common symptom of breast cancer is the lump that forms in the breast, however, not all breast lumps or abnormalities are cancerous and that is why getting a proper diagnosis is important.
Some of the tests that can be done to diagnose breast cancer are breast cancer screening using a mammogram or ultrasound test and doing a biopsy, among other tests.
The treatment for this cancer highly depends on the stage of the cancer. Surgery is the most common treatment for this cancer, and it is often followed by other treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The best prevention for breast cancer is early detection which is why breast cancer awareness month focuses, among other things, to educate women on the importance of early detection of breast cancer.
About Breast Cancer Awareness Month
The month of October is when pink becomes the colour of focus with campaigns dubbed “Wear It Pink” and “Going Pink”, among other themes being the order of the day.
This month is dedicated to creating awareness not just on breast cancer but more importantly the need for early detection, treatment as well as palliative care for women with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
As we put focus on creating awareness on breast cancer among women, we must not forget that male breast cancer, though rare, is a possibility. Men also need to be educated about breast cancer as they can also fall victim to the same. Most male breast cancer is detected in the late stage as for majority of men, it may be hard to suspect that they could have anything strange in their chest area and therefore, doing a breast self-exam is out of the question for them.
More than 200,000 breast cancer deaths in low- and middle-income countries occur because they are detected in the late stage. This is to emphasize the fact that many women are not aware of the role that early detection and diagnosis plays in more effective treatment of breast cancer. This can in turn, significantly reduce the number of deaths caused by breast cancer.
Women in low- and middle-income countries also face barriers to health services which also contributed to the rise in number of breast cancer-caused deaths; whether it is financial barriers, the lack of healthcare facilities that deal with breast cancer or the distance to health facilities, these barriers are not to be ignored.
What can be done?
To reduce the rising number of deaths caused by breast cancer, continued education about breast cancer, early detection and treatment, must be put in place.
Women should not just be educated on the importance of these concepts but also taught on how they can take active role in their own breast health. Breast self-exam is one major way through which women can take this active role that can contribute to early detection of breast cancer.
The knowledge on early detection of breast cancer can be passed through campaigns that are driven by not only the public, but the private health sector as well and other interested parties.
Governments should also make healthcare services more affordable and available for women to be able to get the healthcare they need. This will see to it that more women get timely diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, thereby reducing the deaths caused by this cancer.
Women with stage 4 breast cancer can also get palliative care which can improve their quality of life by reducing and controlling the spread of the cancer to other parts of the body.
There is hope for women with breast cancer if early detection will be put into practise and if good healthcare services are made available and affordable to all women.
This year tell your friends and loved ones about breast cancer; early detection, diagnosis and treatment. Save a life by helping more women to take charge of their own breast health by practising regular self-breast exam and getting regular screening.
We can fight breast cancer together.