LET’S TALK ABOUT BREAST CANCER… AGAIN!
Another year is drawing to a close. October is quickly following that trend. Ribbons have been bought and worn, seminars and conversations done, advertisements on TV, radio, social media and even on my grandma’s 2G phone via the convenience or none thereof of telemarketing, and yet here we are again about to go on and on about breast cancer. Wait! Before you yawn or the guys start saying it’s a women’s problem, did you know that 4% of all breast cancer cases are men? (See what I did there? Just threw in a juicy fact for the nerds out there!) But seriously, before we purpose our intent to relegating this conversation to the era of the deliberately extinct yellow pages and go on to talk about the Hudderfield-Manchester United game which is obviously more interesting, let us have a much deeper appreciation of the facts.
Before we continue, it is important to note that the information contained within this article is not exhaustive and should not be used exclusively without the advice of a medical practitioner. Should the reader have any further inquiry, it would be wiser and more diligent to consult with a doctor or health professional.
Now back to the business at hand. The symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in shape or size of the breast, and a discharge from the breast. Breast self exams and mammography can help find breast cancer early. (Still on that note, I’ve heard that most cases of early breast cancer detections from self exams were actually discovered by the partner thus showing the importance of the husband in this regard. This obviously is a myth that some may not like debunked so we best leave it at that). Those mainly at risk are the obese, those using hormone replacement therapy (also called menopausal hormone therapy), taking birth control pills, drinking alcohol, not having children or having their first child after 35 years and those with dense breasts.
Patients with breast cancer have many treatment options. Most treatments are adjusted specifically to the type of cancer and the staging group. Treatment options are being adjusted frequently and your health care provider will have the information on the current standard of care available. Treatment options should be discussed with a health care professional. These treatments may range from the basic treatment modalities I will touch up on to more umm… not-so-basic procedures.
Most women with breast cancer will require surgery. Broadly, the surgical therapies for breast cancer can be divided into breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy. Breast-conserving surgery is a procedure that will only remove part of the breast (sometimes referred to as partial mastectomy). The extent of the surgery is determined by the size and location of the tumor. With this being said, the importance of early detection cannot be over-emphasized. In a lumpectomy, only the breast lump and some surrounding tissue is removed. The surrounding tissue (surgical margins) is inspected for cancer cells. If no cancer cells are found, this is called "negative" or "clear margins." Frequently, radiation therapy is given after lumpectomies.
During a mastectomy (sometimes also referred to as a simple mastectomy), all the breast tissue is removed. If immediate reconstruction is considered, a skin-sparing mastectomy is sometimes performed. In this surgery, all the breast tissue is removed as well, but the overlying skin is preserved.
For some patients; a small group of patients who have a very high risk of breast cancer, surgery to remove the breasts may be an option. Although this reduces the risk significantly, a small chance of developing cancer remains. Double mastectomy is a surgical option to prevent breast cancer. This prophylactic (preventive) surgery can decrease the risk of breast cancer by about 90% for women at moderate to high risk for breast cancer.
All treatment options should be carefully discussed with a health care professional prior. It is important to ask your physicians questions regarding to your health and not feel like you’re being “bothersome or cumbersome” as some are in the habit of doing. If you have received a positive or possible diagnosis of breast cancer, there are a number of questions that you can ask your doctor. The answers you receive to these questions should give you a better understanding of your specific diagnosis and the corresponding treatment. It is usually helpful to write your questions down before you meet with the health-care professional. This gives you the opportunity to ask all your questions in an organized manner.
For the tech and internet savvy, there is much information available online about breast cancer. The reader should make sure to look at reliable and nationally known resources and verify all information with their doctor. The importance of an accurate diagnosis cannot be overstated. It is the precise diagnosis that determines the recommended treatment.
And now to round-off. In case you are one of those in perpetual denial and think this can never affect you; if that is the case rather, do something for those whom it may. How you ask? Join the Pink Friday Challenge, a brain-child of the Rotaract Club of Matopos. Take video clips in pink gear, spreading awareness on breast cancer and challenge and/or tag other Rotaract Clubs and friends and post them on Facebook. The Pink Friday photoshoot will be done on the last Friday of the month. Best portrait wins $5 worth of airtime.
Also join the PinkTalk on social media, wear a pink ribbon and be knowledgeable, strike up a conversation with a colleague or neighbor on breast cancer signs and symptoms, detection, diagnosis and treatment. You could save a life.
Let’s have a conversation on breast cancer at the Pink Pitch night at Rainbow Hotel on the 26th of October. (Free snacks all around, or at least I hope so)