Breast cancer can strike any age, any race and any gender.
The youngest survivor of breast cancer in South Africa was six years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The youngest male was just 13 years old when he was diagnosed.
This is according to Merné Ogle, head nurse at Randburg Pink Drive, an organisation dedicated to breast cancer awareness through an emphasis on early detection.
Ogle spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about the undiscriminating nature of breast cancer. “Everybody needs to check themselves,” she said. “Men can also get breast cancer. Children can also get breast cancer.”
The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) says that breast cancer is the most common cancer in women aside from non-melanoma skin cancer. According to non-profit organisation and provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare services, Marie Stopes, one in 31 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer across all race groups.
According to Ogle, symptoms of breast cancer can include a hard and gritty lump in the breast or the armpit, swelling of the glands or armpits, any unusual increase in the size of one of the breasts, changes in the skin of the breast or nipples and discharge from the nipples.
Conducting monthly self-examinations and having knowledge of these symptoms makes early detection possible and increases positive treatment outcomes.The risk of developing cancer increases with age and in the case of breast cancer, women over 40 are encouraged to have a mammogram every two years, and annually once they reach the age of 50.
If you see or feel any change in your breasts or underarms when you do a self-examination [SEE VIDEO BELOW], make an appointment with a health practitioner.
Wits Campus Health (WCH) offers free breast screenings. Eugenia Mazoda, health administrator at (WCH), says the staff are able to refer students to have mammograms done if necessary.
The Pink Drive and CANSA deploy mobile health units into communities across South Africa to conduct professional breast examinations. If you feel the need to undergo a professional screening, both organisations can be contacted for these services. If you require a mammogram, this can be done at public hospital breast clinics such as Helen Joseph Breast Care Clinic, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital.