October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”. The aim of this global month long push is to raise awareness of the disease and raise funds to sponsor education and research into its causes, prevention and treatments. In South Africa, it reflects a nationwide drive by public and private healthcare organisations to raise awareness of a disease that affects both women and men.
Of the big 5 cancers affecting women in SA, breast cancer is the most common in women of all races. According to the 2014 National Cancer Registry, there is a lifetime risk of 1 in 27 women being affected by breast cancer.
The risk of breast cancer increases as women grow older, but many women under the age of 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer. All women are at risk, and in particular women with a family history of breast cancer. Being overweight, inactive, consuming alcohol, poor dietary habits, smoking and exposure to chemicals also increase risk.
Awareness of the symptoms, and early detection through screening, can help lead to earlier diagnosis and save lives.
REDUCE RISK THROUGH REGULAR EXAMINATION
The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) strongly advocates monthly breast self-examinations as well as regular screening in order to ensure early detection.
Research has shown that a regular Breast Self-Examination (BSE), plays an important role in discovering breast cancer, compared to finding a breast lump by chance. A BSE should be done once a month, preferably at the same time of day, following a woman’s menstrual cycle.
This easy to follow 2-minute video shoes you how to do a BSE.
While not all breast lumps indicate cancer, you should investigate any lumps you may find. This is especially important if accompanied by other changes in breasts or the underarm area. The image below shows some of these changes to look out for.
If you feel or see any change in your breasts or underarms, arrange for a Clinical Breast Examination at your local CANSA Care Centre, primary health care centre or health practitioner.
Clinical Breast Examinations
A Clinical Breast Examination (CBE) is a visual and manual examination of the entire breast done by a medical professional. CANSA advises you to have a CBE as part of your annual medical check-up.
A mammogram is a special x-ray to detect lumps in the breast. Mammograms do not prevent breast cancer, but they can save lives by detecting breast cancer as early as possible. Earlier detection has also meant that more women being treated for breast cancer have been able to keep their breasts. When caught early, localised cancers can be removed without resorting to breast removal (mastectomy).
CANSA advises that women from the age of 40 should go for an annual mammogram. Women 55 years and older, should have a mammogram every two years. However, if they choose or are at risk, they can continue with an annual mammogram.
A “ROOIBOS BRA” IN AID OF BREAST CANCER AWARENESS
The Rooibos Bra was unveiled this week to mark the start of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October. As the name would indicate, the bra is made almost entirely out of Rooibos tea bags. “Rooibos tea was specifically chosen as it contains powerful antioxidants that help fight inflammation, a leading cause of cancer,” says Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council (SARC). The Rooibos Bra will be auctioned in a few weeks at a high-profile fundraising dinner in aid of the CANSA women’s education programmes.
The brainchild of the SA Rooibos Council, CANSA and lingerie retailer, Storm in A-G Cup, the Rooibos Bra has been months in the making. It was designed and made by a team at Storm in A-G Cup through a process of trial and error. This required thousands of “used and dried” Rooibos tea bags that were donated by tea drinkers from across the country. “While only 450 Rooibos tea bags were used in the final design, the bulk of the donated tea bags were used to trial various styles.“ Rooibos tea, naturally stains the tea bags red. This provided the gorgeous reds and pinks needed to create the bra.
The Rooibos bra forms part of several other CANSA initiatives this spring to create widespread awareness of breast cancer and other cancers affecting women.
Lucy Balona, spokesperson for CANSA says she hopes as interest continues to build around the Rooibos Bra, that women – young and old – heed the call for regular breast screenings and examinations.
“Detecting breast cancer early means a much higher survival rate. Regular screenings and mammograms are critical. We need to have less women affected by cancer and having to face that journey.”
THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST
(Related Post: What is your risk of developing breast cancer?)