The past 3 months have been significant in South Africa. August was women’s month, September heritage month and now October is breast cancer awareness month.

October being breast cancer awareness month is very important because the South African Medical Journal (SAMJ) states that 1 in 29 women is likely to develop breast cancer as it is the most common cancer among women. Although the disease is less common in black women, it should not be taken lightly because it is the second most common cancer in black women. The first is cervical cancer.

Bridgett Manyonga a social worker at Lukholweni Care Home, said that the home receives cancer patients on a weekly basis. Half of those patients turn out to be breast cancer patients. Manyonga further stated that the severity of the cancer diagnosis of the patients depends on the people because “there are different stages of cancer”. Although breast cancer is mostly associated with women, there are also case of breast cancer in men.

Awareness surrounding breast cancer is of utmost importance; however it is not as publicised as it should be in some communities.

“In South Africa, there is not much awareness about breast cancer as a whole,” said Manyonga. “Things are improving”, she added. The success rate of breast cancer survivors is “very high” and this shows that awareness is indeed growing.

Lukholweni is based in Orlando East Soweto and specifically deals with patients going through radiation as a form of treatment. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), radiation therapy is when the body receives “high-energy radiation to shrink tumours and kill cancer cells”. This is done either through a machine or through “radioactive material placed in the body”.  Manyonga who also works at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, added that 2 out of 10 people die of cancer, showing that people are “buying into cancer”.

Risk Factors

These are some important cancer risk factors according to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA):

  • Having a baby over the age of 30
  • Women over the age 50
  • A family history of cancer
  • If one is obese

Cancer can be cured and survival chances are higher if it is detected early. Women can conduct a soft breast exam by feeling their breasts for any abnormalities. Manyonga advises women over the age of 40 to go for screenings. She adds that if women feel any lumps in their breast, they should also go for screening to identify whether it is cancerous or not.

Help is available for people diagnosed with breast cancer. More information can be acquired from the CANSA website: www.cansa.org.za or alternatively visit the Lukholweni Care Home at no. 1344/7 Mokoena Street, Orlando East, 1804.

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