October is marked by many countries across the globe as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink October, as many call it, has become one of the most significant months of the year. Many look forward to the usual activities from the infamous #NoBraDay to several other awareness-raising events on breast cancer.
This is to help draw attention and increase support for early diagnosis, and treatment as well as palliative care for people facing this disease.
Breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in women worldwide and the leading cause of cancer in most countries. According to Globocan, there are about 1.7 million new cases and 522,000 deaths from breast cancer annually.
With all the buzz surrounding Pink October, there seems to be a lot we don’t know about breast cancer. In this chat with Doctor Kofi Frimpong Oppon, a medical practitioner at the Family Health Department of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) and the Medical Director of Famcare Medical Consult, we delve deeper into the tell-tale signs of breast cancer and some early detection tips.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
Dr. Kofi Frimpong Oppon clarified that breast cancer does not only happen to women. Men can be vulnerable, even though cases involving them are rare. Generally, people of all ages can be affected but the disease usually happens in adults from the age of 25 years upwards.
He also stated that different people may have different symptoms while some show no signs or symptoms at all. Mass in the breast, painful sore ulcers on the breast, change in size, dimpling breast, skin thickening taking the form of an orange peel, or breast discharge are all common symptoms associated with breast cancer in the early stages.
Some breast cancer victims may lose weight, and experience other symptoms depending on the type of breast cancer. Dr Oppon urged people not to stay home when they notice any sort of changes or the mentioned symptoms.
Immediately visiting a primary health care provider, doctor or nurse when you notice any change in your breast can help with early treatment.
How to conduct a breast cancer self-exam?
Dr Kofi Frimpong Oppon advanced that it is important for people to regularly self-exam their breasts to help with early detection and treatment. Self-exam involves multiple visual techniques to detect breast cancer signs and symptoms.
- First, stand in front of the mirror with your hands on your hips and see if your breasts are the same size or the same level. Also, look out for any reddening or soreness on the breast.
- To physically exam your breast, use your right hand to examine your left breast, then vice versa. With the pads of your three middle fingers, press on every part of one breast. Use light pressure, then medium, then firm. Feel for any lumps thick spots or other changes. Use a circular pattern to help you make sure you have hit every spot.
- Then press the tissue nearest your armpit, be sure to check under your areola (the area around your nipple),
- Squeeze your nipple to check for discharge. Repeat the process on the other breast. This can be done standing, in the shower, or sitting.
Myths about breast cancer
Can you get breast cancer by the type of brassiere you wear? Can you reduce the risk of getting breast cancer when your partner suckles your breast? Dr Kofi Frimpong Oppon shot down these claims, urging people to disregard this notion.
For people living with breast cancer, Dr Oppon advised them not to lose hope but rather focus on making the best out of their treatments and the emotional or psychological support given by friends and family.
As part of Famcare Medical Consults CSR, there has been an ongoing free breast screening exercise in October. Both men and women can take advantage of the opportunity to get their breasts screened. Walk into any of the branches in Kumasi or Krofrom to get your breast checked at no cost.
Thelma Quainoo is my name, and my pen name is Miss Anowaa. My zodiac sign is Aries, and that alone will tell you I am a bubbly soul. A writer and an aspiring public relations practitioner. Find me on IG as @miss_anowaa. #beyouloveyou