Embracing Hope: Breast Cancer Awareness
October is not just a month of vibrant blooms and spring rejuvenation in South Africa; it is also a time to embrace breast cancer awareness. October, dedicated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month is not just a month on the calendar; it is a poignant reminder of the battles fought, the resilience displayed, and the unity of purpose that defines our shared humanity. This year, the theme "Keeping Her in the Picture" invites us not only to be vigilant guardians of our well-being but also of the significant women in our lives.
In this blog will explore breast cancer prevalence, risk factors, detection, support for those diagnosed and the beautiful ways in which we can honour those who have faced this challenge with bravery and grace and ways to stay informed and proactive about breast health.
Breast Cancer Prevalence in South Africa
Breast cancer, like a shadow in the night, knows no boundaries and affects lives indiscriminately, regardless of age, race, or status. According to the 2019, National Cancer Registry (NCR), South Africa has one of the highest breast cancer incidence rates in Africa, with an estimated 1 in 27 South African women at risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. This statistic underscores the importance of awareness, early detection, and proactive action. It is vital to understand the factors contributing to this prevalence and take steps towards reducing the burden of breast cancer.
1. Risk Factors
- Age: The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and the majority of cases are diagnosed in women over 40. This emphasises the need for vigilance, especially in women over 40.
- Genetics: A family history of breast cancer, especially if it involves a first-degree relative, can increase one's risk.
- Hormonal Factors: The ebb and flow of hormones during a woman's life can influence her risk.
- Lifestyle Choices: Our daily choices, such as maintaining a healthy weight, moderating alcohol consumption, and embracing physical activity, can help us reduce risk.
- Environmental Factors: Sometimes, our environment, including exposure to chemicals and radiation, may play a role.
2. Early Detection: A Beacon of Hope
Early detection is the keystone of our collective defence against breast cancer and is key improving breast cancer outcomes. South Africa has implemented various strategies to promote early detection, including breast cancer awareness campaigns, screening programmes, and self-examination education.
- Clinical Breast Examinations (CBE): These examinations, performed by healthcare professionals, are like the gentle touch of hope, seeking any sign of abnormality.
- Mammograms: The true hero in our quest for early detection. Starting at age 40, regular mammograms serve as our vigilant sentinel against breast cancer, and for some with a family history, the journey may begin even earlier.
- Breast Self-Examinations (BSE): As individuals, we have the power to be the first responders in our health. Regular self-examinations empower us to detect any changes and report them to our healthcare providers.
- Breast Health Clinics: South Africa has established breast health clinics that provide services for breast cancer screening, diagnosis, and support. These sanctuaries of care provide a comprehensive range of services, from screening to diagnosis and support, offering hope to those seeking answers.
- Genetic Testing: For those with a family history of breast cancer, they may consider genetic testing to assess their risk, helping them make informed decisions about their health.
3. Embracing Hope, Inspiring Support
In the face of breast cancer, support is not a mere gesture; it's a lifeline. For those who walk the path of breast cancer, support and compassion are the guiding stars. A cancer diagnosis is a battle, and we must stand as unwavering pillars of strength, understanding, and love. "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." Our support, presence and empathy make a profound difference and can be the light in their darkest hours.
Here's how we can stand together with those diagnosed with breast cancer:
- Encourage Strength: Share stories of survivors who have overcome the odds, inspiring those currently facing this challenge. Let hope be your beacon.
- Family and Friends: Be the unwavering support system. Encourage your loved ones to prioritise screening and early detection.
- Support Organisations: South Africa boasts organisations like CANSA (Cancer Association of South Africa) and PinkDrive, extend a helping hand to those in need.
- Celebrate Courage: Take this month to honour the strength of those who have battled breast cancer and emerged victorious. Celebrate their courage and resilience.
- Promote Awareness: Be a voice of hope in your community, advocating for awareness and early detection.
4. Paying Tribute and Inspiring Hope
In this journey, we pay tribute to the warriors, those who have faced breast cancer with unparalleled courage. To those still fighting, remember the words of Nelson Mandela, "It always seems impossible until it's done." You are stronger than you think, and your journey inspires us all. To those who have passed on, we honour your memory and remember your resilience.
5. Pink Ribbon Power: Be the Change for Breast Cancer Awareness
The pink ribbon symbolises our commitment to spreading awareness, making the invisible visible. It symbolises not only our commitment to awareness but also our solidarity with those affected by breast cancer. The pink ribbon reminds us to encourage regular screening and self-examinations.
As we embark on this journey through Breast Cancer Awareness Month in South Africa, let us remember that our actions can light up the path of hope for those affected. Breast cancer may cast its shadow, but it also serves as a canvas on which we paint stories of courage, support, and inspiration. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let us be filled with gratitude for each day, each moment, and each opportunity to support and uplift one another. Together, we can keep her in the picture, a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and a source of hope for all. Together, we can turn the challenge of breast cancer into a beacon of hope, guiding us towards a brighter, healthier future. Let’s remember the words of author John Diamon that "Cancer is a word, not a sentence."
7. Some support groups in South Africa
HPCA Hospice Palliative Care Association, Contact: Dr Liz Gwyther
Tel: 083 651 6294 or 021 531 0277, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Breast Health Foundation, Contact: Louise Turner
Tel: 011 482 9492 or 0860 283 343