The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives so much that many diseases were virtually neglected. Unfortunately this has even worsened the deficits we were already battling with. Screening for breast cancer as well as increasing awareness of this cancer dipped. Like many others, Breast Cancer belongs to the group of apparently “neglected diseases” over the past eighteen (18) months or so.
We need to urgently schedule breast screening and support those who can’t afford breast screening due to accessibility or financial challenges. This will help us catch this cancer before it spreads and becomes less treatable.
As the world has put it; IT’S TIME TO RISE…
We need to rise and rally support in Screening, Supporting and Serving in whatever way possible. Look beyond yourself and help save other people.
Yes breast cancer is over a hundred times more common in women, but it may also occur in males with an even poorer outcome due to delays in diagnosing. So this year tell all the males you know to have their breasts examined.
Breasts seem to generate a lot of enthusiasm wherever they are mentioned yet in many developing countries we still struggle with early detection of breast cancer. One would have thought that for something that draws so much attention, we will all do our bit to ensure it remains healthy.
If you do not know what your “normal” breast looks like then you will not be able to tell if changes occur and it may be too late in the day when cancer is detected. Examine your breasts TODAY!
Diagnosing Breast Cancer
Some people know a lot about their breasts and the awareness of breast cancer is so high that the smallest change in their breast is reported to a health professional. In our part of the world ignorance, poverty and fear may delay detection to the point that the breast is sometimes “mutilated” beyond recognition and the odour emanating from the breast could relieve you of your chronic sinusitis before one presents at a hospital. Prior to this some may have tried all sorts of concoctions including applying suspicious herbs and driving away evil spirits.
The following steps may help:
• Physician and/or self-breast exam
o Monthly self-breast examination is highly encouraged in our part of the world and supported by an annual professional breast examination.
o Look out for lumps, changes in breast shape and sizes, skin changes in colour and dimpling,
o Itching of breast (do not panic. This is rarely an indication of breast cancer)
o Nipple discharge or changes
o DO NOT WAIT FOR PAIN IN YOUR BREAST BEFORE TAKING ACTION
• Ultra sound scan of the breasts
• Biopsy – taking out a suspicious growth in the breast and examining
Other tests such as PET CT, MRI and the CT scan will also help detect spread if they are available.
Can you imagine what goes through the mind of someone who is diagnosed of breast cancer that has already spread especially without adequate counseling?
We elicit multiple fears including:
• Fear of surgery
• Fear of death
• Loss of body image
• Loss of sexuality
Statistics that make you cringe
• “A total of one woman is diagnosed of breast cancer worldwide every three minutes”. About two people will have been diagnosed with breast cancer by the time you finish bathing today
• “Breast cancer is the second commonest cancer among women in Ghana. It accounts for 15% of all cancers and 40% of female cancers in Ghana”
• “Majority of breast cancer cases in Ghana are between the ages of 40 – 49 years”
Medical science is unable to pinpoint the cause of breast cancer so our best options are EARLY DETECTION and REDUCING OUR RISK FACTORS. It is also important to extend a helping hand to help cure those diagnosed but who cannot afford treatment, support through information dissemination and emotional support to cope with the diagnoses and side effects of treatment. Take a stand today and if you do not have any ideas you may contact the Cancer Society.
Finally dear reader let’s put the following in action
• Early detection is great so women should do monthly self exam and probably examination by a healthcare professional yearly. Men should make sure we examine our breasts occasionally, the risk is real
• All women should get a baseline mammogram between 35 – 40 years, 40-50 years mammogram every other year and yearly after 50 years. Yes there are arguments about this frequency but after all is said and done it is a safer option
• Exercise regularly
o “BUDDY UP” for breast cancer and get fit together….
Join a friend or friends to exercise or start a healthy life programme together. You may buddy with a breast cancer survivor, newly diagnosed person with breast cancer or someone without breast cancer. The plan is to work as a team to achieve better results.
• Eat a healthy meal with a great portion of fruits, vegetables and omega -3 laden fish. But beware of fats and oil.
• If you intend to start a family, maybe you should before you are 30years and then breastfeed for as long as you can afford to.
• What about donating blood to assist people in need of blood, which may include those battling breast cancer.
• DEFINITELY make sure you alert at least one busy woman, one woman without access to information and one man, that breast cancer is real but a lot can be done when detected early.
Together we can all work to reduce the incidence of advanced breast cancer.
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, ENSURE HYGIENE, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/Mobissel/St. Andrews Clinic
*Dr. Essel is a Medical Doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week – “Screening saves lives. When detected early the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99%.”
2. Mosby’s Ace the Boards
5. Unravelling The Essentials of Health & Wealth