ZIMBABWE this month joins the rest of the world in commemorating the Breast Cancer awareness month under the theme ‘Find It, Fight It and Win the Battle’.
Breast cancer is the second killer cancer among women in Zimbabwe after cervical cancer.
Generally cancer is not a single disease, but a group of diseases which are caused by abnormal growth of body cells.
A cancer is named after the body part it starts.
In an interview, Cancer Association of Zimbabwe Information Research and Evaluation Officer, Mr Lovemore Makurirofa said cancer awareness must be an ongoing exercise.
“People should continue to spread information, gathering knowledge, providing support psychologically and financially,” he said.
“People should find enough information on cancer because knowledge is power and it is the starting point to successfully fighting it.
“The issue of fighting cancer involves early detection because it saves lives and this is done by regular self examination and men can also help in noticing anything unusual on their partners.”
Makurirofa said it was recommended for men as well as women to set aside one day in a month to examine themselves and if they notice anything unusual seek early medical treatment.
He said women should examine themselves from the time they turn 18 onwards and that women undergoing menstrual periods are encouraged to do breast self-examinations three to five days after one’s period when breasts are less tender and swollen.
He said if early detection and support are followed, the five-year average survival mark will be surpassed.
“Early detection saves lives and after the treatment patients should do the follow ups in order to avoid recurring of the cancer,” he said.
Makurirofa said there was an increased awareness with regards to breast cancer.
He urged people and the corporate world to donate towards cancer so that information is also availed in vernacular languages for everyone to access the information.
Men, said Makurirofa, could have breast cancer as they also had breast tissues which are affected by cancer.
However, the percentage of being affected was low because of the different structures of the breasts.
People who are likely to have breast cancer are those who are 40 years or older; however. younger women and men can also contract breast cancer.
It is important to note that breast cancer can also be hereditary.
Other people at risk of breast cancer include those who have had no children or having children later than 30 years, those who consume diets which are high in animal fat, those who drink alcohol and smoke or overweight.
Below is a table on breast self-examination.
1. Stand before the mirror, inspect both breasts for any unusual discharge, dimpling, scaling, and puckering of the skin.
2. Watching in the mirror, clasp hands behind the head and press head against hands. This helps to identify any changes in the shape or size as the muscles contract.
3. Press hands on the hips and bend towards the front or mirror while pulling shoulders and elbows forward. The pulling of muscles helps to identify any abnormalities on the breasts
4. While in the shower, with soapy hands, lift arm and with four fingers of your right hand, gradually work from the outer edge of the breast in small circles towards the nipple. The circular movements will help identify any lumps or abnormalities. Following the same process use your left hand to examine the right breast.
5. Closely look at the nipples of both breasts to exclude any discharges, rashes or scaling.
6. Step 4 and 5 should be repeated by lying down on the back. With the left arm over the head, use the right arm to examine the left breast. With the right arm over the head, use the left hand to examine the right breast. The position flattens the breast making it easier to examine the breasts for any abnormalities.
Information courtesy of The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe