World Breast Cancer Month: Going Beyond October Imperative

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  • By Oluwakemi Shodeinde•

Breast cancer is one the leading killer diseases in the world today and continues to deplete the population due to its expensive treatment. Not even many people understand what it feels like to live with the disease, the chemotherapy sessions, the nausea that accompanies the loss of hair and the shame even of losing a breast.

The Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world every October, helps to increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of this disease. There are about 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer each year (IARC Globocan, 2008).

Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women worldwide, both in the developed and developing countries. In low-and middle-income countries, the incidence has been rising up steadily in the last years due to increase in life expectancy, increase urbanisation and adoption of western lifestyles.

Currently there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer; therefore, early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured. If detected late, however, curative treatment is often no longer an option. In such cases, palliative care to relief the suffering of patients and their families is needed.

The majority of deaths (269 000) occur in low-and middle-income countries, where most women with breast cancer are diagnosed in late stages due mainly to lack of awareness on early detection and barriers to health services. Even, the World Health Organisation (WHO), promotes comprehensive breast cancer control programmes as part of national cancer control plans?

They recommended early detection strategies for low-and middle-income countries are awareness of early signs and symptoms and screening by clinical breast examination in demonstration areas. Mammography screening is very costly and is feasible only in countries with good health infrastructure that can afford a long-term programme.

Taking place annually throughout the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month aims to raise awareness about the disease and raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. While the general publics are often aware of the conditions much more action needs to be taken to support the public in reducing their risks and support early detection and treatment.

That is more reason we need to be keeping writing articles and new stories on the pages of newspapers to keep us posted or updated throughout the month of October with additional and comprehensive news and activities that are taking place to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) and we encourage people to play a role in helping raise the global visibility of ‘Pink October’. Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), also referred to in America as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

Breast cancer awareness month is yearly campaigns that intend to educate people about the importance of early screening, test and more. This campaign starts on October 1 and ends on October 31 every year. Mind you, breast cancer is a very serious health challenge and it is the most common cancer affecting women world-wide. It can affect anyone of any age or background or affluence not excluding men though in very rare cases. Older women especially between the ages of 45 to 55 years are most plagued with this disease. These prime ages when most women are looking forward to reaping the fruit of their labour, alas, the ailment occurs.

The incidence of breast cancer among women has been rising up steadily in the last years due to increase in life expectancy, increase urbanization and adoption of western life style. Still, many people shy away from discussions on the disease because it is believed that when the breast is plagued with cancer it spreads like wildfire and has no remedy. In fact, the thought of the disease is so frightening and often seen as a death sentence.

Despite the scourge of this ailment, the awareness level of people, particularly women is still very low most especially in developing countries. According to statistics obtained, as even discussed above in this write-up, there are about 1.38 million new cases and 458,000 deaths from breast cancer annually (IARC Globocan, 2008). Majority of death (269,000) occur in low-and middle-income countries where most women with breast cancer are diagnosed in late stages due mainly to lack of awareness on early detection and barriers to health services.

There is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, so early detection of the disease remains the surest way to curb it. Although medical science is working tirelessly to find lasting cure to the menace, there is still no medication or therapy for permanent cure till date, and in view of the foregoing, the World Health Organization (WHO) set aside the month of October to create awareness and proffer preventive measures to fight the disease. They promote comprehensive breast cancer programme as well as campaign to raise awareness by educating and empowering women to take charge of their breast health is a campaign that must be spread in every home, community, country and the world at large.

Medical personnel have advised that women practice regular self-breast examinations to identify changes in the breast, lump, pain or nipple discharge. Scheduling regular visits and annual mammograms with health care provider, adhering to prescribed treatment and knowing the facts about recurrence are basically ways of preventing breast cancer. Therefore, it is pertinent to regularly visit your doctor who may direct that you have a mammogram or breast scan to ascertain if the lump is benign (harmless) or malignant (cancerous).

However, breast cancer is not peculiar to women as men are not completely immune to the disease. Some men, though in very low percentage have been diagnosed with breast lumps which, if not properly treated could lead to cancer. Mr. Abidemi Aremu’s story (not real name) illustrates such rare occurrence. Sometimes during the October cancer month few years ago, he discovered a lump in his left breast and thought it was a boil.

He went from visiting pharmaceutical stores to traditional healers for cure, which he never got, until a doctor carried out breast examination on him during one of the awareness campaign programmes where he was diagnosed with breast lump. The lump was subsequently removed through surgery and other treatment and he was cured. This was his serving grace as he would have gone from pillar to post seeking cure, which might never be forthcoming.

Have you noticed a discharge in your nipple, discovered lump or pain in your breast or armpit and you feel your life is threatened? The symptoms notwithstanding, there is need for every woman to have her breast checked regularly for any sign of cancer, as early detection is the best option for cure.

It is said that when breast cancer is detected early and if adequate diagnoses and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured. If detected late however, curative treatment is often no longer an option. In such cases, palliative care to relieve the suffering of patients and their family is needed.

This is because we are not always sure whether the lumps or pains are cancerous. The advice by medical personnel on the need for regular breast examination is to ensure proper diagnoses to be sure if it is actually breast cancer. So, if you notice any of these symptoms, you don’t have to panic as some pain or lumps in the breast are harmless and could be a sign of cyst or benign.

For these remaining days of October, why don’t you key into the opportunity available in the breast cancer month and visit the nearest hospital for diagnoses. If you reside in Ogun State, the Dapo Abiodun-led administration has made available modern medical equipment in all State hospitals for adequate treatment. Early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of this disease are a lifesaver. Save someone’s life today by raising the awareness that all women get screened either through self-breast examination, have their breast examined by medical personnel or any other means. Let’s take action now or tomorrow might be too late.

But, mind you as this month of October almost comes to an end, the anus is now on society to go beyond just one million, but to remain visible throughout the year for as long as cancer remains a leading killer disease and make everyday a “pink day”.

  • Sodeinde is of Ministry of Information and Strategy, Abeokuta, Ogun State



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