Profmed – Breast Cancer Article
Did you know 1 in 27 women are at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime? In fact, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among South African women. Profmed’s statistics for 2019 indicate that 0.5% of our members are currently diagnosed with breast cancer. So, it is critical that we understand how to recognise the signs and what to do if cancer is detected. It all starts with awareness…
Do you have breast cancer?
The first step in identification lies in examination. Profmed would like to educate member and the public about preventative care because early detection can help lead to earlier diagnosis, resulting in improved treatment outcomes.
While not all breast lumps indicate cancer, they should be investigated, especially if accompanied by other changes in breasts or the under arm area, such as lumps, texture changes, thickening, dimpling, changes in shape or size of nipples or breasts, tenderness, discharge, rash or swelling, or one breast suddenly being slightly larger than the other. Follow the video link on How to do a Breast Self-Examination – youtu.be/7ef2RF_9U4c
Clinical Breast Examination
This examination should be arranged if you feel or see any change in your breasts or underarms. This can be done at a primary health care centre, your health practitioner or your local CANSA Care Centre. A Clinical Breast Examination (CBE) is a visual and manual examination of the entire breast, from the collarbone to the bra line, and from the armpit to the breastbone. It is also advisable to have a CBE as part of your annual medical check-up. Should any abnormalities be detected you will be referred for further testing by a medical professional.
Mammograms (a special x-ray to detect lumps in the breast), do not prevent breast cancer, but they can save lives by finding breast cancer as early as possible. Finding breast cancers early with mammography also means that many more women being treated for breast cancer are able to keep their breasts. When caught early, localised cancers can be removed without resorting to breast removal (mastectomy).
It is encouraged that women over 40 years as well as who have other risk factors such as mutated BRCA1 /2 gene go for annual mammogram, for purposes of non-symptomatic breast screening. Profmed covers an annual mammogram under the preventative care benefits to make this possible.
You have breast cancer. Now what?
A cancer diagnosis may be daunting, but it never means that all hope is lost. The first line of defence is always knowledge.
Understand your cancer and treatment:
The best way to fight something is to know exactly what you are fighting. Try to obtain as much basic, useful information about your cancer diagnosis as you need in order to make decisions about your care. Talk to your doctor or specialist and before you go, write down your questions and concerns beforehand and bring them with you. Consider asking:
- Has it spread?
- Can my cancer be treated?
- What other tests or procedures do I need?
- What are my treatment options?
- How will the treatment benefit me?
- What are the side effects of the treatment?
Armed with this knowledge, you may take some comfort in knowing what it is you need to do next. If you want to know more about breast cancer, consider reading the Cancer Association of South Africa’s fact sheet.
Talk to someone
Cancer has a knack for disrupting one’s life in the most physical and emotional ways. Never be afraid to admit that you need help when it comes to coping. There are professional therapists all over the country with profound experience in helping people cope with the challenges of cancer treatment and survival.
Sometimes the only people who can truly put life into perspective are the ones going through the same struggles as you. There are plenty of cancer support groups out there ready to help you connect with others and unload your burdens together. It doesn’t even have to be a face-to-face group either, there are groups on Facebook and other online portals in case you feel anxious about doing it in person.
CANSA has a good summary of face-to-face and social groups.
People with cancer use aromatherapy because it makes them feel good. Many say that it can help lift their mood and improve their wellbeing. It helps them feel like they are helping themselves. Aromatherapy has been proven to provide some relief in the fight against cancer. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants (flowers, herbs, or trees) as therapy to improve physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, medical aid scheme, Profmed has partnered with aromatherapy company, Aromadough, by sending 343 of the medical aid’s cancer patients and survivors an upliftment package containing Aromadough’s patented essential oil dough to help them cope with life during and after treatment.
On top of aromatherapy there are other activities that can help one cope with the trials of treatment such as meditation, exercise and a healthy diet.
Remember, don’t ignore your body if something feels off, no matter how insignificant like excessive hair fall, nail discolouration, tiredness – this is your body warning you that something is wrong. Speak to your medical aid provider to understand their cancer policy, benefits as well as their treatment options.