Breast cancer accounts for 22 per cent of female deaths in Nairobi alone. That’s according to the latest information from the Nairobi Cancer Registry.
No doubt these lives could have been saved.
Dr Marsha Rose, a medical officer with Mater Group of Hospitals, says that cancer can be treated if discovered early enough.
In early stages, cancer cells are still establishing,” she explains.
“They can be killed or excised off from the system so that the patient remains cancer free. When the cancer is left to develop, the cells entrench and spread to other parts of the body, making it hard for complete treatment.”
But if there is no campaign as successful as that of Breast Self-Examination (BSE). Through BSE, one primarily searches for a lump, a pimple, or an unusual mass.
Even though majority of breast cancer patients are female, a small percentage are male.
According to Marsha, as long as a person has breast mass, they are potentially susceptible to breast cancer.
During BSE, one is supposed to palpate the breast in circular motion when nearing the nipple.
“Through touching and feeling, one can detect unusual pimples or growths which may be indicative of possible breast cancer,” says Marsha.
But lumps and pimples are not the only signs of the presence of breast cancer.
According to Marsha, there are other subtle symptoms that many ignore, but are equally helpful in determining the presence of breast cancer.
“We advocate that people be keen on any noticeable changes. The colour, shape, consistency, and symmetry of the breast should all be able to raise a red flag. Any breast with a rough, lemon-like skin can be a pointer to breast cancer; as is sudden colour changes, or lack of symmetry (when one breast is bigger than the other),” says the medic.
Besides these signs, one should also be on the lookout for lifestyle and other risk factors.
Anyone with a family member who has suffered from breast cancer has a 50 per cent chance of getting the disease.
Current technology allows for genetic testing to determine if one has BRCA (Breast Cancer) gene.
The presence of the gene means one will eventually develop breast cancer at some point in life.
Dr Marsha advises that everyone – especially women – to be checked for the BRCA gene. Once found, removal of breast mass can help stop the spread of the disease.
Further, she adds, consumption of alcohol and smoking increases the chance of contracting cancer.
Always be alert to any changes.