Early detection through mammography helps lessen extensive surgery, fewer mastectomies, and less frequent or aggressive chemotherapy. CHIAKI KAWAJIRI
Early detection through mammography helps lessen extensive surgery, fewer mastectomies, and less frequent or aggressive chemotherapy. CHIAKI KAWAJIRI

Early diagnosis is the ’gold standard’ for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Murphy Nganga Time of article published Oct 1, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - While breast cancer remains one of the leading health concerns for both men and women, the Breast Imaging Society of South Africa (BISSA) emphasised the “gold standard” for diagnosis during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

According to BISSA, breast cancer accounted for more than a quarter of new cancer cases in South African women this year, and 8% of cancer deaths. Early detection of breast cancer is encouraged as it improves the chances of survival, and reduces the need for aggressive and invasive treatment in a disease that is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in South African women, with a lifetime risk of one in 25.

BISSA chairperson professor Jackie Smilg said that the “gold standard” for detection of breast cancer remains mammograms, which is vital as mammograms can find tell-tale changes in breast tissue years before symptoms develop.

Early detection through mammography helps lessen extensive surgery, fewer mastectomies, and less frequent or aggressive chemotherapy. CHIAKI KAWAJIRI

“The goal of screening for breast cancer is to find the disease before it causes symptoms. Early breast cancer detection reduces deaths, extends life expectancy, and improves quality of life for breast cancer patients. Early detection through mammography also means less extensive surgery, fewer mastectomies, and less frequent or aggressive chemotherapy.”

“Hence, all women should regularly self-examine their breasts. Women at average-to-mild risk should start having annual mammograms from age 40, regardless of whether they have any symptoms or have found any abnormalities,” said Smilg.

With obstacles such as financial constraints and risk profiles, Cancer Alliance project manager Salomé Meyer advises on developing a health-seeking behaviour and continuously push for an examination at every doctor’s visit.

“When anything is abnormal you can then take yourself to a health-care professional and insist on a clinical breast examination after you've done your own self examination, and because women in the public sector get access to health services in a much different way compared to women in the private sector, understanding their risk profiles contributes immensely to the early detection of the disease.”

“Health-seeking behaviour starts with the person taking responsibility for their health and actually saying that I will take responsibility for my body and I will make sure that I eat healthy within my means. By also insisting on getting your clinical examination brings about a different type of health-seeking behaviour that is needed within our communities.

“In South Africa, we easily hide behind the fact of actually taking responsibility to go for screening. We forget to look inwards within ourselves in terms of what is our responsibility and that is the type of conversation we need to have when we start talking about cancer and cancer awareness and in South Africa,” said Meyer.

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