When you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, your life changes dramatically.
Cancer affects not only the individual diagnosed, but also the family, friends, and community of the person.

Some friends may stop being in touch because they don’t know what they should say to someone with cancer and are unable to face them. Or then the person who is ill may withdraw socially.

Then again, it may be due to anxiety but also physical factors, if the illness and its treatment interfere with your normal life. On the other hand, having a severe illness can alter your values and view of life, and so your friendships may also alter.

Loved ones feel completely helpless. Not only are they dealing with their own grieving process of accepting what is happening, but they also must manage the emotions of the individual suffering with cancer and their acceptance (or not) of their journey.

It is important for people to try to understand the struggles that the diagnosed may be going through and support them in any way they possibly can:

  • Family, friends, neighbours and the community can reach out and help by organising fundraisers for the individual.
    Treatment is extremely expensive, and medical aids usually only cover a percentage of these costs.
    Host a Tea with raffles, competitions and prizes. Or a poker night, where winners will receive a portion of the money won, and hotdogs are on sale.
  • Neighbours can take turns making meals for the person and their family, as the person is probably too tired and weak after treatment, and the family is emotionally drained.
  • Family members are more than likely taking a lot of time off from work, so offer to drive the individual to and from the hospital or clinic.
  • Reach out to other diagnosed individuals and organise a support group, where they can get together (maybe at your house), allowing them to speak openly to one another and share feelings and experiences they feel others won’t understand. If you are a counsellor or psychologist, even better.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and breast cancer among South African women is increasing. It is one of the most common types of cancer, affecting women, according to the National Health Department.

That is one of the reasons why “…the Breast Health Foundation (BHF) was started in 2002 as a Not for Profit organisation with [the] aim to educate and inform, empower and emotionally support people with Breast Cancer and Breast Health issues,” says Louise Turner, COO of Breast Health Foundation.

 
Photo credit: The Breast Health Foundation

Turner says that according to South African statistics, 1 in 28 women are at risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.

Signs and Symptoms.

The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass.
A lump that is painless, hard and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But some cancers are tender, soft and rounded.
It’s important to have anything unusual checked by a doctor.

Other possible signs of breast cancer can include:

  • Swelling of all or part of the breast.
  • Skin irritation or dimpling.
  • Breast pain.
  • Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward.
  • Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin.
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk.
  • A lump in the underarm area.

But Turner says: “Self-breast-exams allows individuals to be empowered and to support early detection. [And] early detection increases [your] chance of survivorship.”

“Breast cancer cannot be prevented, however lifestyle modifications, such as healthy eating and exercise, can minimise one’s risk.”

Myths and Truths.

Apffelstaedt & Associates (founded by Dr Justus Apffelstaedt) is a multi-disciplinary Breast, Thyroid and Parathyroid centre, offering comprehensive clinical, and appropriate imaging assessment services, for any breast, thyroid and parathyroid health and cancer-related matters.

 
Dr Justus Apffelstaedt 
Photo credit: Apffelstaedt & Associates
Dr Apffelstaedt told us the truth behind some myths about breast health.

MYTH 1
There is an increase in breast cancer in younger women.

TRUTH
The majority of breast cancer patients in South Africa and abroad have typically been, and still are, found in women between the ages of 50 and 70 years old.

MYTH 2
Chemotherapy is the most important factor in reducing breast cancer-related deaths.


TRUTH
The most effective way to treat breast cancer with a multi-disciplinary approach – combining a number of treatment options, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal and biologic agents.

MYTH 3
Smoking increases your risk of breast cancer.

TRUTH
Recent research has found that many women will not increase their risk of getting breast cancer by smoking.
However, there is a subset of women with a specific genetic make-up which prevents them from detoxifying cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke efficiently.
Thus, these women do have an increased risk of breast cancer when smoking.

MYTH 4
The myth is that all mammograms are done using similar technology, will yield the same results and don’t mean much in breast cancer treatment.

TRUTH
The accuracy of mammographic diagnosis during screening depends on:

  • Using optimal equipment, full-field digital mammography should be the minimum.
  • The optimal image is produced by a radiographer specialising in mammography.
  • The optimal reading of the image is usually py doctors who specialise in breast imaging and training in mammography interpretation.
  • A process of rigorous quality control, where all outcomes are recorded and regularly analysed.

Only where all of these conditions are met, will it be possible to realise the promise of lowering mortality rates from breast cancer and increasing breast conservation rates.

MYTH 5
It is better to remove the entire breast when you have breast cancer.

TRUTH
As breast cancer could spread to other areas, a mastectomy will not guarantee better survival than breast-conserving therapy.

MYTH 6
Mammograms are painful.

TRUTH
At most, a mammogram may be a little uncomfortable.
However, when performed by an experienced mammographer, a mammogram is not a painful procedure.

If you experience pain, a mammogram should not be done until the reason this is addressed.

MYTH 7
After a breast augmentation, it will be harder to detect breast cancer – and you’ll be more at risk.


TRUTH
You will not be more at risk after you have breast augmentation.
However, it is important that you have your mammogram taken by an experienced mammographer, because special techniques are needed to demonstrate all breast tissue.

Merlin’s Inspirational Story.

Photo credit: Beautiful News South Africa Facebook Page

Merlin Osborne is a breast cancer survivor and an inspiration.
“No one could ever prepare one for the journey of breast cancer.”

But Osborne made the decision not to allow cancer to define who she is.
“I wasn’t going to allow it to steal my joy.”

Osborne joined the amaBele Belles Dragon Boat team – she calls them her “support team on water”.


Photo credit: AmaBele Belles BCS Dragon Boat Team Facebook Page

The amaBele Belles are the first and only Dragon Boat Team of breast cancer survivors on the African continent.

“I’ve been showered with so much love and people understood what I had gone through.
“Even though my cancer is gone, the friendships I have made will never die.
“We’re all in the same boat and we’re fighting this together.”

 
Photo credit: AmaBele Belles BCS Dragon Boat Team Facebook Page
Here is a list of some Breast Cancer Awareness events happening around the country:

G A U T E N G

Lift In Pink

Place: Phoenix Strength & Fitness, Northwold Junction Shopping Centre, Corner Elnita and Drysdale Road, Northwold, Randburg
Date: Saturday, 20 October 2018
Time: 09:00 – 13:00
Cost: R100 for 1 event, R150 for 2 events 
For more information, email: [email protected], or phone: 0860 283 343

Zumbathon

Place: Hangar 50, Rand Airport, Hurricane Road, Germiston, Johannesburg
Date: Saturday, 20 October 2018
Time: 10:00 – 12:00 (Registration is from 09:00)
Cost: R100 per person
For more information, contact Antoinette: 083 307 2001

Bra Dash

Starting and finishing at: CRAFT Restaurant, 4th Avenue, Parkhurst, Randburg 
Date: Sunday, 28 October 2018
Time: 10:00 – 17:00
For more information, email: [email protected]

K W A Z U L U – N A T A L

Hawaiian High Coffee

Place: Protea Hotel, Edward, 149 OR Tambo Parade, South Beach, Durban
Date: Friday, 5 October 2018
Time: 15:00 – 17:00
Cost: R300 per person
For more information, email: [email protected]

Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day

Place: St.Theresa’s Children’s Home, 7 St. Theresa’s Road, Sydenham, Durban
Date: Saturday, 13 October 2018
Time: 14:00 – 17:00
Cost: R60 per person
For more information, phone Debbie: 082 441 8457 / 031 209 2166, or Hayley: 083 698 2287

Jump Challenge Fundraiser

Place: Jump4Joy Indoor Trampoline Park, 7 Travertine Crescent, Briardene, Durban
Date: Friday, 26 October 2018
Time: 13:00 – 21:00
Cost: R140 for 2 jumpers
For more information, phone: 0861 586 745, or email: [email protected]

W E S T E R N   C A P E

The Warrior Race

Place: Meerendal Wine Estate, Vissershok Road, Durbanville, Cape Town
Date: Saturday, 6 October 2018
Time: Registration opens: 06:30
Cost: From R350 per person
For more information, contact Nelius: [email protected]

Mad Hatters Tea Party

Place: Protea Hotel Tyger Valley, Uys Krige Drive, Plattekloof 2, Cape Town
Date: Saturday, 20 October 2018
Time: 14:00 – 17:00
Cost: From R320 per person
For more information, contact Lisa: 083 444 1901

Breast Cancer Awareness Sunday

Place: Centre for Performing Arts, University of the Western Cape, Robert Sobukwe Road, Bellville, Cape Town
Date: Sunday, 14 October 2018
Time: 17:00 – 18:30
Cost: Free
For more information, phone: 083 269 8674, or email: [email protected]

 
Photo credit: The South African Youth Choir (SAYC)

E A S T E R N   C A P E

Breast Cancer Awareness Breakfast

Place: Old Grey Sports Club, 2 Lenox Street, Glendinningvale, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
Date: Saturday, 20 October 2018
Time: 08:00 – 11:00
Cost: R120 per person
For more information, phone: 041 364 2599

CANSA Pink High Tea

Place: The Beach Hotel, Marine Drive, Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
Date: Saturday, 6 October 2018
Time: 14:30 – 16:00
Cost: R150 per person
For more information, phone: 041 583 2161, or email: [email protected]

Cancer Care High Tea

Place: Tramways Building, 16 Lower Valley Road, Port Elizabeth Central, Port Elizabeth 
Date: Saturday, 20 October 2018
Time: 11:00 – 14:00
Cost: R100 per person
For more information, contact Lydia: 041 363 0581 (office hours only)

We’d like to leave you with this:
Tennis superstar, Serena Williams, singing: “I Touch Myself,” to raise awareness for Breast Cancer.

Donate, volunteer, and follow the Breast Health Foundation’s social media pages:
Facebook: @BreastHealthFoundation
Instagram: @breasthealthfoundationsa
Twitter: @BreastBhf

The Breast Health Foundation has Clinics in the Free State, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.