At least, 3027 women die of breast cancer every year in South Africa. These numbers can be reduced if the cancer is detected early, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The most effective way of detecting it early is through regular screening and testing. Martha Molete, spokesperson for the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), is concerned that there are very few women in South Africa who go for regular screening and testing.
‘Currently, less than 20% of all South African women have ever gone for screening and testing. And that’s a huge concern for us… That’s why over 3000 women die in South Africa every year. But the sad thing is, had their cancer been detected early and treated they would have been saved,’ Molete said.
Samantha Galliet is a breast cancer survivor and founder of the Pink Link Breast Cancer Advocacy group. She says the reason why most women do not go for regular screening and testing is because they don’t see themselves at risk of breast cancer.
‘The problem is we all think that ‘it can’t happen to us’, especially young women. I am a 32 year-old woman. I was diagnosed at the age of 29. I see women every single day under the age of 30 being diagnosed’¦ We live our lives pretending ‘it can’t happen to us’. And we really need to catch a wake up (call),’ she said.
Galliet’s organization has created a website – www.5minutestestlive.co.za – to create awareness about breast cancer. She advises women to follow a simple self examination process to detect if they have the cancer.
‘It’s very important to self examine every month, a few days after your periods. And you do it with your three flat fingers starting with your index finger in circular motions’¦ If there are any changes in your breast – if there is thickening of the breast, if there is any kind of discharge from the nipple, anything whatsoever that you do not feel comfortable with – you go straight to your doctor,’ Galliet said.
CANSA’s Molete says men can also play an important role in the fight against breast cancer.
‘It’s very important for men out there to support their wives and partners, sisters and mothers to go for a screening every three years if they can afford it. But if they can’t, the department of health also offers free screening from the age of 30. Three free screenings every ten years… It’s very important that women access this service,’ she said.
Breast cancer is the second most dangerous cancer in women after cervical cancer. It kills more than 3000 women in South Africa and close to 500 000 world wide, according to the World Health Organization.