It’s breast cancer awareness month and in this article the Kenya Forum seeks to give our female readers tips on how to self-examine their ‘babies’ in order to give room for early detection of breast cancer, based on the facts that 30% of cancers are curable if detected early; 30% of cancers are treatable with prolonged survival if detected early; and 30% of cancer patients can be provided with adequate symptom management and palliative care.
CANCER THIRD HIGHEST CAUSE OF DEATH IN KENYA
Apparently, 70-80% of cancer cases in Kenya are diagnosed in late stages due to a lack of awareness, inadequate diagnostic facilities, lack of treatment facilities, high cost of treatment and high poverty Index.
Cancer is the third highest cause of morbidity in Kenya [7% of deaths per year], after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases. The country has an estimate 39,000 new cases of cancer each year with more than 27,000 deaths per year, with 60% of those affected by cancer being younger than 70 years old.
According to statistics by the Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations, breast cancer is now the leading cancer in women in Kenya (34 per 100,000), followed by cervical cancer (25 per 100,000). Global statistics indicate that 1 in every 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life time.
Breast cancer usually starts in the tissues of the breast and comes in two main types: ductal carcinoma, which is the most common, starts in the tubes (ducts) that move milk from the breast to the nipple; the second type of breast cancer is lobular carcinoma, which begins in the lobules (milk glands) of the breast.
SELF EXAMINATION FOR BREAST CANCER
STEP 1: Undress your bossom and stand in front of a mirror. look at your breasts with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. What you should look for:
- Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
- Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling
- If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:
- Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
- A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
- Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
STEP 2: raise your arms above your head and look for the same changes.
STEP 3: squeeze your nipples to check for any discharge (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
STEP 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.
NB: Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast (see breast cancer symptoms).
The 2014 breast cancer awareness kicked off on Wednesday, October 1 and ends on Friday, October 31. Remember it’s all about increasing attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of this killer disease, so spread the word.