While there is a special focus at this time of the year to raise awareness levels of breast cancer, CANSA encourages  women to make their health a priority all year round by being aware of the symptoms of cancer. The risk of COVID-19  infection may well discourage some from visiting their GP or gynaecologist for their annual medical check-up and  screening but early detection of cancer is absolutely vital and can save lives.

According to the SA Government, the incidence of breast cancer among South African women is increasing and it is  one of the most common cancers among women in South Africa. The National Cancer Registry (NCR) estimates that  19.4 million of South African women of 15 years or older live at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

What are the typical symptoms of breast cancer?
Leading medical media platform WebMD writes that breast cancer can present different symptoms such as:

  • A lump in your breast or underarm that does not go away
  • Swelling in your armpit or near your collarbone
  • Pain or tenderness (although lumps seldom hurt).
  • A flat or indented area on your breast.
  • Breast changes such as size, contour, texture or temperature
  • A nipple which pulls inward, is dimpled or burns, itches or develops sores
  • Unusual nipple discharge
  • A marble-like area under the skin which just feels different.

Many women do not notice these symptoms or associate them with the possibility of having breast cancer. This fact highlights the need for greater awareness, self-examination, check-ups and screenings.

Self-examination, check-ups and screenings.
Regular annual check-ups and screenings are very important but given that these might be 12 months or longer apart, what can you do to improve the chances of early detection?

A regular monthly breast self-examination can help you to determine if there are any changes to the look and feel of your breasts. If you notice any changes or symptoms described earlier, discuss this with your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, many breast changes detected have benign causes but some changes may signal something more serious, such as breast cancer.

Regular self-examination is very important (view the CANSA video below for instruction) and can improve the chances of surviving breast cancer. Self-examination however does not replace the need for regular and professional check-ups and screenings by your doctor, gynaecologist or health clinic.

Frequency of check-ups and screening.
Guidelines do suggest when you should go for a medical check-up or screening but it is best to discuss this with your doctor. Your health is too important for a one- shoe- fits- all approach and your doctor can advise you on your check-up plan, taking factors into account such as your age, medical history and genetics, among others.

Please visit the CANSA video for self-examination instructions https://cansa.org.za/womens-health/

From Link pharmacy, your Good Health independent community pharmacy group. Stay informed, stay aware and stay well!

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