Early detection is key

Breast cancer tops the list of the “big five” of cancers – cervical, colorectal, uterine and lung – affecting women in South Africa.

According to the National Cancer Registry of 2012, one in 26 women are at risk of breast cancer.

With October being Women’s Health Awareness month, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) highlights the five leading types of cancer that indiscriminately afflict women in South Africa and encourage them to be screened for any ailment all year round.

To reduce the risk of cancer Cansa advises monthly breast self-examinations, regular screenings (clinical breast examinations) at Cansa care centres, the use of SureTouch, a non-invasive device used for breast screening, also available at centres, and urges symptom-free women to go for a mammogram every year.

Breast cancer warning signs, include a puckering of the skin of the breast, a lump in the breast or armpit, a change in the skin around the nipple or nipple discharge, dimpling of the nipple or nipple retraction, an unusual increase in the size of one of the breasts, one breast is unusually lower than the other – ie the nipples are at different levels – an enlargement of the glands, and an unusual swelling in the armpit.

Rene Petersen, a Cansa community mobiliser, said early detection and living a healthy lifestyle were key to reducing the number of women diagnosed with cancer and improved treatment outcomes.

“Among the many functions of the support group is to raise awareness about cancer and to help cancer survivors and their carers find information,” she said.

Ms Petersen said the role of the support group was to offer support to cancer survivors.

“The benefit of being part of a support group is that you are surrounded with people that understands you and can support and assist you with your cancer journey,” she said.

While many survivors do have the support of their family, said Ms Petersen, they say once they have joined the support group, that they have found a new family.

“I would like all cancer survivors to belong to a support group so they can see they do not have to fight their cancer battle alone,” she said.

Ms Petersen said they have a mantra: “Cancer is limited, it cannot shatter hope. Cancer is limited, it cannot silence courage”.

Westridge support group meets every Wednesday at Westridge library at 10am. For more information call Johanna Henry on 084 608 2320.

Woodlands support group meets at FROG Centre, 2 Juno Rd, Woodlands, on the last Wednesday of the month at 10am. For more information call Evelyn Pascoeon 076 533 2740.

Strandfontein support group meets at the AFM church, corner of Play and Dennegeur Roads, on the last Thursday of the month at 10am. For more information call Barrenise Arries on 074 285 0153.