Have you ‘seen’ your breasts today?
Breasts come in all shapes and sizes and most women will admit that shopping for an ideal bra is probably one of the most frustrating experiences. These shapes and sizes are dictated to a large extent by the fatty tissue contained within. Over the years, the picture of “a good looking” breast has gone through cycles and currently many of us are swayed by the “implant inspired” ideal. We will go to all lengths to mimic what the stars and magazines portray, not taking even a minute to know a bit about our own breasts. My advice to you today is – “Woman and Man know thy breast, in the interest of healthy breasts”. Yes, breast cancer is over a hundred times more common in women, but it may also occur in males with an even poorer outcome due to delays in diagnoses.
Everyone has a story to tell about breasts; the baby’s sucking experience to men who are unable to keep their eyes off a good pair of breasts and in between women who may even admire a rival’s pair. Breasts seem to generate a lot of enthusiasm wherever they are mentioned, yet in many developing countries, we still struggle with early detection of breast cancer. One would have thought that for something that draws so much attention, we will all do our bit to ensure it remains healthy.
If you do not know what your “normal” breast looks like then you will not be able to tell if changes occur and it may be too late in the day when cancer is detected.
Diagnosing Breast Cancer
There are different types of breast cancer and their management may also vary. Some people know a lot about their breasts and the awareness of breast cancer is so high that the smallest change in their breast is reported to a health professional. In our part of the world, ignorance poverty and fear may delay detection to the point that the breast is sometimes “mutilated” beyond recognition and the odour emanating from the breast could relieve you of your chronic sinusitis before one presents at a hospital. Prior to this, some may have tried all sorts of concoctions including applying suspicious herbs and driving away evil spirits.
The following steps may help:
- Physician and/or self-breast exam
- Always better if done as a routine exam
- Look out for lumps, changes in breast shape and sizes, skin changes in colour and dimpling
- Itching of breast (do not panic. This is rarely an indication of breast cancer)
- Nipple discharge or changes
- DO NOT WAIT FOR PAIN IN YOUR BREAST BEFORE TAKING ACTION
- Ultra sound scan of the breasts
- Biopsy – taking out a suspicious growth in the breast and examining
Other tests such as PET CT, MRI and the CT scan will also help detect spread if they are available.
“Your mammogram is suspicious for breast cancer” or “your biopsy was positive for breast cancer” are two of the many phrases that cause panic and fear in every man or woman. Yes, laughter has been described as the best medicine but a late diagnosis of breast cancer is no laughing matter. Let us take steps now to detect breast cancer early so that we can “overcome’ it.
Can you imagine what goes through the mind of someone who is diagnosed of breast cancer, especially without adequate counselling?
We elicit multiple fears including:
- Fear of surgery
- Fear of death
- Loss of body image
- Loss of sexuality
Statistics that make you cringe
- “A total of one woman is diagnosed of breast cancer worldwide every three minutes”. About two people will have been diagnosed with breast cancer by the time you finish bathing today.
- “Breast cancer is the second commonest cancer among women in Ghana. It accounts for 15% of all cancers and 40% of female cancers in Ghana.”
- “Majority of breast cancer cases in Ghana are between the ages of 40 – 49 years.”
Medical science is unable to pinpoint the cause of breast cancer so our best options are EARLY DETECTION and REDUCING OUR RISK FACTORS. How many women in Ghana or other parts of the world will read this article or any other? I was at UT Bank’s “Pledge Pink Ball” a few years ago and I must say they were really doing their bit. What can the rest of us do? This is why I totally agree with Prince Kofi Amoabeng (Capt. Rtd) when he says “the breast certainly needs support”. This is not the support offered by a good bra but support in cash to help cure those diagnosed but who cannot afford treatment, support through information dissemination and emotional support to cope with the diagnoses and side effects of treatment. Take a stand today and if you do not have any ideas you may contact the Cancer Society.
Finally dear reader let’s put the following in action
- Early detection is great so women should do monthly self exam and probably examination by a healthcare professional yearly. Men should make sure we examine our breasts occasionally, the risk is real.
- All women should get a baseline mammogram between 35 – 40 years, 40-50 years mammogram every other year and yearly after 50 years. Yes, there are arguments about this frequency but after all is said and done it is a safer option.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a healthy meal with a great portion of fruits, vegetables and omega-3 laden fish. But beware of fats and oil.
- If you intend to start a family, maybe you should before you are 30years and then breastfeed for as long as you can afford to.
- DEFINITELY make sure you alert at least one busy woman, one woman without access to information and one man, that breast cancer is real but a lot can be done when detected early.
Together we can all work to reduce the incidence of advanced breast cancer.
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, ENSURE HYGIENE, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/Mobissel/St. Andrews Clinic
*Dr Essel is a Medical Doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week – “Remember! A simple act of washing your hands with soap and water can save you from many diseases including COVID-19.”