The prime goal of observing Breast Cancer Awareness Month is raising awareness, intending to significantly reduce cancer patients and casualties. Cancer claims over 8 million lives annually. The question is, how have we been doing so far?
Cancer remains one of the most lethal diseases, despite several attempts to find a cure. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, new cancer cases rose to 14.1 million in 2012 worldwide. By 2030, the global numbers are expected to grow to 21.7 million new Cancer cases. According to the World Health Organization, Cancer claimed 9.6 million deaths globally in 2018. The economic impact of Cancer has also been increasing, estimated at approximately $1.16 trillion.
Despite more cases and deaths related to Cancer, there have been great improvements in the understanding, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of Cancer over the past decade. Various cancer treatment forms have been discovered, such as radiation therapy, surgery, and drug treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. However, drug treatments are said to be systemic as they affect the entire immune system during treatment.
Women are encouraged to do continual self-examination for the detection of cancer. It involves examining the breast tissue for any physical or visual changes. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 40% of Breast Cancer cases are detected through self-examination, especially feeling a lump.
Ways to self-examine for breast cancer:
While standing- with light, medium, then firm pressure, press the entire breast and armpit area using your three middle fingers. Check for a lump, thick or hard knot, or any other change. Repeat the process monthly for both breasts.
While facing a mirror- inspect your breasts visually with your arms on the sides. Raise your arms overhead while looking for any swelling, dimples, or nipple changes. You can also rest your palms on your hips while pressing firmly to flex your chest muscles. Check for dimpling, puckering, or any changes, particularly on one side.
While lying down- with a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head, move the pads of your left-hand fingers around the entire right breast and armpit. Squeeze the nipple and check for discharge and lumps. Repeat the same for the other breast.
Another means of detecting breast cancer is the use of mammograms. These are produced using an x-ray machine and helps detect tumors at an early stage. Mammograms, however, have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many women have avoided going for their mammograms due to fear of contracting the virus. The fear spread amongst health workers and leads to canceling appointments in health institutions.
However, with time, the fear has subsided as many health facilities have come up with measures to curb the virus's spread, like more waiting rooms. The process has been re-opened and many women are urged to catch up with their appointments. This greatly helps to avoid discovering the disease after it is too late.