Velisha Thompson of the City of Johannesburg writes:
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and much focus is placed on women’s health issues.
However, breast cancer affects men and women but is more common among women.
Origin of breast cancer
Biological studies show that breast cancer is the result of an accumulation of individual genetic mutations that together alter the system of a cell.
Research shows that hormonal changes, lifestyle and environmental factors may increase the risk of breast cancer.
It’s likely that breast cancer is caused by an interaction of our genetic makeup and your environment. Breast cancer is also inherited –
if there is a history of breast cancer in the family, your chances of breast cancer are even higher.
Cause of cancer/risk factors
- Women are much more likely than men to develop breast cancer
- Breast cancer risk increases with age
- If your mother, sister or daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, the risk of breast cancer is much higher
- Sometimes we inherit genes that can increase our cancer risk. Pregnant women are not supposed to be exposed to radiation
- Obesity can also increase your chances of breast cancer
- Your chances of breast cancer can also increase if you begin your period before age 12
- Late menopause can also increase chances for developing breast cancer
- Excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of breast cancer.
Effects of cancer
The physical impact of cancer and cancer treatments may affect your quality of life and emotions in different ways.
Feeling exhausted and lacking energy for day-to-day activities is the most common side effect of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy affects red blood cells (anaemia) and makes a person fatigued. It can also be caused by the effort of coping with the physical and emotional effects of diagnosis and treatment.
Cancer patients experience pain from cancer and its treatment. Appetite also changes – some people lose their appetite while others eat more. Many patients lose weight with treatment.
Cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause changes to your body. These changes are sometimes temporary or permanent, they can change the way you feel about yourself (your self-esteem) and make you feel self-conscious.
Some cancer treatments affect the reproductive organs, which may lead to temporary or permanent infertility. This means it may no longer be possible to conceive a child.
A mastectomy may be necessary so that cancer does not spread through the whole body.
Treatment for breast cancer
Treatment for breast cancer depends on the type of breast cancer you have, the size of a tumour and how far cancer has spread in your body as well as which stage of cancer you are in.
Many people go to traditional healers/sangomas for treatment. There is no scientific evidence that it is a success. Herbs and plants are also being used to treat cancer.
Some people also believe in juicing (juice of fresh fruit and vegetables) on a daily basis, drinking green tea, garlic and other alternative medicine. The best is to seek medical advice from a health professional.
Cancer has become increasingly common and it is frightening for a person to be diagnosed with cancer and their family.
After the shock of learning that they have cancer, they have to deal with the issues of treatment and the side effects, and if the cancer is spread too far.
We should support those with cancer and not judge anyone – sometimes cancer patients may lose their hair and lots of weight.
There are many support groups and organisations for cancer patients as well as cancer awareness campaigns.