Features Health

Breast cancer month: Screening, awareness vital

CANCER is claiming more lives than HIV, TB and malaria combined. To this effect, the Cancer Diseases Hospital (CDH) is conducting free breast cancer screening and awareness activities from October 1 to 31. NOMSA NKANA reports.
SHE has seen a lot of women die of breast cancer and has decided not to take chances with her life.
This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Victoria Mhango, 52, has jumped at the free mammogram services being offered at the Cancer Diseases Hospital (CDH) in Lusaka to be tested.
Ms Mhango had been trying in the past to be screened at CDH but could not afford to pay K200 for the examination.
“I’m aware of how cancer is ravaging the health of many people and so I have been interested in knowing my health status. I go for cervical cancer screening yearly but I had been failing to have a mammogram done because of the costs involved,” she said.
She learnt from her aunt of the free services being offered at CDH during this Breast Cancer Awareness month and grabbed the opportunity to be screened.
Ms Mhango said even though some people are scared that their results might not be favourable to them, she is not afraid because she believes early detection is better and could just save a life.
And CDH executive director Kennedy Lishimpi said his institution has been conducting yearly Breast Cancer Awareness programmes since 1997.
Dr Lishimpi explained that this exercise is critical because cancer is now claiming more lives than malaria, HIV, and TB combined.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to detect the disease in its early stages.
During this month, CDH is providing free mammography screening, self-breast awareness information, and also free clinical breast examinations among others.
According to Dr Lishimpi, a mammogram is an x-ray that allows a qualified specialist to examine the breast tissue for any suspicious lumps.
In a diagnostic mammogram, more x-rays are taken, providing views of the breast from multiple vantage points.
A clinical breast exam (CBE) is an examination of breasts by a health professional such as a doctor, nurse, or physician assistant.
For this exam, you undress from the waist up. The health professional will first look at your breasts for abnormalities in size or shape, or changes in the skin of the breasts or nipples. Then, using the pads of the fingers, the examiner will gently feel (palpate) your breasts.
Special attention will be given to the shape and texture of the breasts, location of any lumps, and whether such lumps are attached to the skin or to deeper tissues. The area under both arms will also be examined.
The CBE is a good time for women who don’t know how to examine their breasts to learn the right way to do it from their health care professionals.
And for breast self-awareness, people are taught to know their breasts and how they (breasts) normally feel. Normal breasts feel different at different times of the month.
Dr Lishimpi said many women have lumpy and tender breasts just before their periods adding that breasts will also feel different during pregnancy and at menopause.
“By becoming breast aware, you will be able to notice any change that might be unusual to you and thus report it to your doctor,” he said.
He said from the time of puberty, the hard part of the breasts begin to break and some lumps remain adding that this is common from ages 18 to 35.
Dr Lishimpi however said these lumps are not cancers and that during Breast Self-exam people are taught how to identify a benign lump and malignant lump.
He said a benign lump is non-cancerous and can be in the breast for some time and then disappear. They become painful during monthly periods.
Other types of breast lumps are malignant (cancerous) and also painless but keep growing as hard as knuckles or sometimes soft.
Dr Lishimpi said there are signs that people are taught to recognise if a lump in the breast is malignant.
He said these are lumps or thickening of breast tissue, continuous pain in a breast or armpit, one breast becoming larger or lower, puckering or dimpling of the skin, nipples becoming inverted (turned in), changing shape or position, nipples developing a rash, crusting or producing discharge and swelling under the armpits or around the collarbone.
Dr Lishimpi said free prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing for men over the age of 45 years will also be conducted.
He said a team will also be going to Ndola General Hospital where it will conduct week-long screening from the twelfth of this month.
From October 20 to 24 of, screening will be done from the National Heroes Stadium.
Dr Lishimpi said 30 percent of cancers are preventable and 40 percent can be cured if there is early diagnosis.
He therefore urged the public to take advantage of this breast cancer awareness Month to receive free screening services.

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