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How you can celebrate breast cancer awareness month

 Early detection is one way to overcome breast cancer, and promoting its awareness can make this achievable (Shutterstock)

October is marked as the breast cancer awareness month worldwide. The attention that breast cancer gets is due to the fact that it is one of the leading causes of mortality among women.

The disease develops through the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells in the ducts and milk glands. Breast cancer affects both men and women.

According to Globocan 2020, breast cancer accounts for 16.1 per cent of all cancer cases in Kenya. Early detection is one way to overcome breast cancer, and promoting its awareness can make this achievable.

It is important to know that breast cancer can be treated if caught early. Late-stage breast cancer may not be curable; however, therapy may slow the growth and spread of advanced-stage cancer even if it may not cure it.

Here are ways women can participate in in taking charge of their health and raising awareness about this deadly disease.

1.    Promote healthy habits at the workplace

One way to beat breast cancer is to reduce exposure to risk factors. Some of the modifiable risk factors as highlighted by Davies Opili, an epidemiologist, include physical activity, alcohol intake and the use of exogenous hormones such as hormone therapy.

In fact, Opili cautions that the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer is 1.5 times higher in overweight women and twice higher in obese women than in lean women.

Obesity is linked to the development of Type 2 Diabetes, which is also associated with higher chances of post-menopausal breast cancer.

As Kenyans continue to get used to working from home, chances are that remote working may induce a more sedentary lifestyle.

Incorporating healthy habits and wellness and reducing alcohol intake are some of the ways to counter excessive weight gain.

A well-organised workplace run or a walk, yoga, any form of a fitness challenge, a healthier diet will help tame behavioural risk factors for breast cancer.

2.    Advocate for screening

According to findings by the Aga Khan University Hospital published in the Journal of Global Oncology, the development of metastatic disease—cancer that has spread to other organs apart from the breast—is to some extent associated with the initial stage at the time of diagnosis.

Metastatic breast cancer is also known as stage IV breast cancer. Patients who had a later stage of diagnosis seemed to take a shorter time to develop metastatic disease.

For instance, patients diagnosed in stage III developed metastases sooner than those diagnosed in stage II. Notable common sites where breast cancer metastasises include the lungs, liver, bones and brain.

It is therefore essential for women, especially those with a family history of breast cancer, to get screened regularly to increase the chances of beating breast cancer.

Many women tend to brush off breast anomalies and only seek medical attention when in pain.

Since several medical facilities take this time to conduct screening, women are encouraged to make breast examinations an annual habit.

3.    Help out at the nearest cancer centre

Breast cancer, just like any other cancer, is expensive to treat. Patients attending both private and public health facilities may experience interrupted treatment due to financial challenges.

Private insurance companies are notoriously known for refusing to renew insurance covers for diagnosed cancer patients; sending them with a financial burden on top of a depressing illness.

This is the appropriate time to connect uninsured breast cancer patients to available foundations, grants and treatment centres.

You may also consider donating money and non-monetary essentials such as meals, drinks, scarves and hats to brave patients battling breast cancer, especially in low-income households.

Depending on their emotional needs, offer makeup make-overs to boost the esteem of patients who are going through the harsh effects of chemotherapy. 

4.    A survivor’s first-hand account

The firsthand experience of a breast cancer survivor will re-emphasise why prevention measures need to be given the attention they deserve.

Organise a lunch with a breast cancer survivor at the workplace, or in your chama where you will learn how those survivors managed to overcome.

Better still, you may arrange inspirational talks for women struggling with overwhelming diagnosis shock.

Renowned oncologist Dr Andrew Odhiambo shares through his website that that delivering news of positive confirmation of a new cancer diagnosis is one of the most heartbreaking moments for a medic.

“The news can be shattering and for some time, one may lose the will to live”, he adds. The power of support and positivity is instrumental for the mental wellbeing of breast cancer patients.

5.    Get an oncologist’s view

It is expected that oncologists may host webinars where they will demystify breast cancer and share in-depth information about risk reduction and practical ways for healthy living.

Attend and encourage female family and friends, at work and at home, to gather knowledge and gain clarity in areas that seem complex.

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