In South Africa 1 in 26 women have a lifetime risk of breast cancer, and over 3,000 succumb to the disease every year – leaving their families and friends shocked and devastated. Not everyone knows that this tragic loss could be avoided. As breast cancer awareness month is coming to an end we’d like to explore ways of beating the so-called Big C, and to celebrate those who have done so already!
Cancer is Not a Death Sentence
Dr Carol-Ann Benn, head of Netcare Breast Care Centre of Excellence recently spoke to Women24 and said, “When breast cancer is detected early, before it invades tissues outside the breast, the survival rate is as high as 95%.” According to Dr Benn the key to survival is therefore early detection. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the better your chances of beating it. Women should learn how to examine their breasts and do this at least once a month, along with annual medical check-ups and mammograms. If the disease is detected in its early stages, it can be beaten. Many women who have been diagnosed survive – some even become role models, like our very own Nicky Bezuidenhout – eDeaf’s marketing manager who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. This is her story:
A Woman’s Intuition Saves a Life – Nicky’s Story
“I booked myself in for a mammogram when I was 38 years old. The hospital told me I was not at risk and should rather come back after I turned 40. I explained my family history and they reluctantly accepted me, expecting my results to be clear. I had no visible changes to my breasts, and no lumps or irregularities. What I did have though was women’s intuition – and never underestimate that!
I went for an ultra-sound following my mammogram, and they picked up a number of benign cysts and “something that didn’t look right” on my x-ray. I was booked in for a biopsy the following day, and the results confirmed Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS).
As with any bad news, the first few weeks were pretty tough. I had two small children and a loving husband who I struggled to break the news to. I was determined not to let phrases like “The Big C” intimidate or upset me. I was on a path and was prepared to see where it took me. I spoke openly and honestly to everyone who asked me questions and was completely frank with my children who took everything in their stride. I wanted both my children (especially my daughter) to know that is it possible to be positive in spite of your circumstances.
My best friends threw me a party prior to my mastectomy and I won’t lie, the post-op pain was almost unbearable. The process of reconstruction took about 6 months, during which time I continued to run and keep active. Your attitude determines your altitude!
Myths and Truths About Breast Cancer
Nicky shared the following 4 myths and truths about breast cancer with us to help others know more about the disease and the importance of early detection:
1. MYTH: Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.
TRUTH: Not all breast lumps are signs of cancer. However, if you do happen to discover a persistent lump or notice a change in breast tissue, it is recommended that you see your doctor for an examination.
2. MYTH: Only women can get breast cancer.
TRUTH: Both men and women can get breast cancer, it is however more commonly diagnosed in women. Men have a lower rate of breast cancer survival than women. Research shows that the primary reason for this, is a lower level of breast cancer awareness among men than women, and therefore men are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which leads to a delay in them seeking treatment, and therefore a later diagnosis.
3. MYTH: A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.
TRUTH: A mammogram, or ultra-sound scan of the breast, are some of the best methods available for early detection of breast cancer. Breast compression while getting a mammogram cannot cause cancer to spread.
4. MYTH: Breast cancer is contagious.
TRUTH: Breast cancer is not contagious, but is caused by the growth of mutated cells within your body that grow and spread into other tissues within the breast.
Nicky’s story is inspirational and proves that it’s not what you are dealt with in life, but how you deal with it!
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, there are many support centers that offer free counselling for you or your family.