By Margaret Kamba
October is the Breast Cancer Awareness Month which promotes self-care, cancer prevention, early detection, management and treatment. The pink ribbon is usually worn during this month to also raise awareness on it. This year the month is being celebrated amidst a covid19 pandemic which has altered a lot of things. One can only wonder how many have succumbed to the pandemic who have had cancer as an underlying disease.
Both men and women suffer from cancer with statistics showing that out of 2,062 recorded cancer-related deaths so far in Zimbabwe, breast cancer has been responsible for 7 percent of the fatalities, with cervical cancer being the highest killer accounting for 13 percent cancer deaths in the country.
According to the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe, cancer is a disease of an uncontrolled growth of cells causing a swelling or tumors. Tumors maybe benign or malignant (cancerous). The cells that develop into cancer can be a result of foreign or harmful substances that penetrate the cell and its nucleus, damaging the DNA- deoxyribonucleic acid.
Cancer causing factors include the air we breathe, the water we drink, diet, alcohol, tobacco and exercise we get, among other factors. Cancer could be a result of faulty DNA which will be recreated every time a cell divides.
While many people have died from it, many are living with cancer. Some of the myths and misconceptions include that it is a death sentence, receiving radiotherapy or chemotherapy will kill one, some types of cancers can be contagious, surgery or needle biopsy can cause cancer cells to spread and cancer causes hair loss among others.
Tips include trying to eat moderate amounts of fat in one’s diet and eating these oils in their natural, raw form if possible, avoiding eating a diet that contains a lot of refined and sweetened foods, eating vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts and drinking around 6-8 glasses of water a day.
Types of treatment include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and palliative care among others
The National Breast Cancer Foundation reports that a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes. With early detection, a woman’s survival rate goes up and with breast self-examinations, it gives women and girls a fighting chance.
Self-examinations ensure that a person looks for changes within and surrounding their breast including dimpling, redness or nipple discharge.