Spotlight on women’s health — breast cancer

IN acknowledgement of Women’s month, a series of articles on health issues affecting women written by Dr Nontobeko Zondi, a female medical practitioner in Kranskop, will be published.

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer affecting women, impacting over 1.5 million women globally each year.

Breast cancer symptoms include a lump inside the breast, breast pain, change in appearance of the skin or breast shape, and nipple discharge. Other symptoms involving different body parts may also occur, should the cancer have spread e.g. bone pains etc.

Early detection is critical in order to improve breast cancer outcomes and survival. Two strategies are early screening and diagnosis.

Breast cancer screening refers to testing otherwise healthy women for breast cancer in an attempt to achieve early detection, hence improving outcomes. Screening methods include self-breast examination, clinical breast examination, and mammogram/ultrasound (depending on a woman’s age).

Should there be abnormalities detected during screening, doctors can then either aspirate fluid from the breast lump or do a biopsy (where a section of the breast lump is removed). These samples are then sent to a laboratory for diagnosis and further treatment depends on the stage of the cancer.

Prevention methods include partaking in regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking and alcohol.