P.O Box 10436 * Maseru 100 * Lesotho
Phones * (+266) 63102600 / (+266) 58566958
Florida LMA Building REG NO: 2008/183
OVERVIEW OF BREAST CANCER
4 October 2013
Month of October is Global Breast cancer awareness month. There has been a
growing recognition that Breast cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality is
increasing alarmingly in Sub Sahara Africa including Lesotho. Breast cancer is a
general term used for different types of cancer that develop from breast tissue
cells. Cancer of the breast is an uncontrolled growth of malignant cells and tissue
that arises in the breast. It is a space-occupying destructive mass that grows at
its own rate independent of the body's control. Some factors may speed up or
sometimes slow down its growth for a period of time, but by and large it
progresses and grows at its own independent rate. Men also develop cancer of
Breast cancer is the leading cancer in the world among women (Saweer et al., 2003:1)
both in the industrialised and the developing countries (Porter, 2009:142; Sasco,
2001:321). According to the World Cancer Report submitted by the World Health
Organization (WHO) (2008), the prevalence of breast cancer could go up by 50% by
2020, from the current prevalence of 1.2 million worldwide to 1.5 million (World Cancer
When abnormal cells divide in an uncontrolled manner they can form a mass of
extra tissue, or tumour, which can be benign or malignant and these can be
diagnosed by simply looking at the cells under the microscope in a Medical
Laboratory by Qualified registered Cytologists and or Pathologists. Benign or
non-cancerous tumour cells do not spread to other parts of the body. They can
usually be removed and do not recur. Malignant or cancerous tumour cells can
invade nearby tissues and break away from the primary tumour to form
secondary tumours, also known as metastases, elsewhere in the body. They
form their own delicate blood vessels , which is a bases for the pain a patients
Lesotho Breast Cancer Network
The cancerous cells may spread to the draining lymph nodes of the region,
usually in the armpit. Once the region has been affected, it may result in a
swelling or even an ulcer and infection. As time progresses, the cancer cells may
spread into the blood stream, causing seeds - or metastases - to be deposited in
vital organs such as the brain, lungs, liver and bone, where they form space-
occupying lesions and destroy the host organ. It is the effects of metastases on
the vital organs that usually lead to fatality.
Risk factors associated with Breast Cancer
The exact cause of breast cancer is still unknown. It is widely believed that it may
include several genetic, environmental, nutritional and hormonal factors.
There is no known way to prevent breast cancer. However, there are things that
one can do to prevent the onset of the disease, especially if a woman falls into
the high-risk category. To date, many risk factors have been successfully
identified, thanks to the advent of laboratory medicine.
Important risk factors include both non-modifiable elements such as age, family
history, early menstruation (before teens), late menopause (after the age of 50)
and long-term hormone replacement therapy; and modifiable elements such as
high fat intake diet, alcohol abuse, smoking, obesity and lack of exercise.
By being aware of the risk factors and knowing that they fall into a high-risk
category, women will be more vigilant when it comes to changes to their breasts.
Knowledge of the risk factors together with regular screening schedule, watching
for changes in their breasts and taking better care of themselves, allows women
to beat the odds.
Treatment of Breast Cancer
When breast cancer is detected at an early stage of development, a number of
effective treatment options are available. A woman, together with her physician,
will select the treatment option that is right for her, based on the location and the
extent of the cancer, her age and preferences, and the risks and benefits
associated with the treatment options available to her. The common treatment
choices available for breast cancer include surgery, radiation therapy,
chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.
Surgery still plays an important role in breast cancer treatment. In the past,
breast cancer treatment usually involved extensive surgery, known as radical
mastectomy, which involved the removal of the breast, chest muscle and the
lymph nodes under the arm. However, experience has shown that limited
surgery, known as lumpectomy, which involves the removal of a small tumour
and a margin of normal tissue around the tumour, in conjunction with
radiotherapy may be just as effective and have fewer side effects.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells and is usually
used after lumpectomy to destroy any cancer cells that may still remain in the
breast after surgery. Careful monitoring is done by use of fine needle aspiration
biopsies cytology (FNAB) to check recurrence. Your Cytologist is the most
important professional in the Cancer case as he / she is evidence based.
In the late stages of breast cancer, or to prevent recurrence, chemotherapy may
also be used. Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs, usually a combination of
drugs, which travel through the body to slow down the growth of the cancer cells
or kill them.
Hormone therapy is used to prevent cancer cells from getting the hormones they
need to grow. If a breast tumour relies on the body's natural hormones to grow, it
is referred to as oestrogen-positive or progesterone-positive. This simply means
that any cancer cells that may remain after surgery has take place, may continue
to grow when these hormones are present in the patient's body. Hormone
therapy can block these hormones from reaching any remaining cancer cells.
Today, more attention is being paid to the psychological effects of removing a
woman's breast, and as little breast tissue as possible is removed. If it is
necessary to remove more of the breast, plastic surgery can be carried out to
reconstruct the breast. If that is not possible for whatever reason, prosthesis can
be worn under clothing to present a normal appearance.
Early detection through self-examination is the key to successful treatment
The most crucial way in which to reduce the mortality from breast cancer is
through early detection. Breast cancer is more easily treated and the chances of
the breast being preserved are better when it is detected in its early stages.
Regular breast self-examination is crucial for early detection and successful
treatment of breast cancer. The more frequently a woman examines her breasts,
the better she will get at the self-examination process. When she gets to know
her breasts, she will be able to detect any changes immediately and seek
medical assistance. For those women who have access to medical facilities and
have the financial means, regular mammograms are strongly encouraged.
Mammography is still the single most effective method to detect breast changes
that may be cancer, long before physical symptoms can be seen or felt.
Support and understanding
Women experience many different emotions and physical reactions before,
during, and after cancer treatment. Emotional support and understanding from
their partners and loved ones is an essential element of recovery.
Cancer patients may have problems with self-esteem, body image, intimacy, and
sexuality. Patients may experience anxiety and depression related to fear of the
cancer coming back or having to face one's own death. Some patients
experience trauma-related symptoms, such as avoiding situations, continuously
thinking about problems, and being over-excited. These symptoms are similar to
symptoms experienced by people who have survived highly stressful situations,
such as combat, natural disasters, or other life-threatening events.
There are many misconceptions about breast cancer and how people cope with
it, such as: all people with breast cancer are depressed, depression in a person
diagnosed with breast cancer is normal, treatment does not help with depression,
and everyone with breast cancer faces suffering and a painful death. Sadness
and grief are normal reactions to the crises faced during breast cancer, and will
be experienced at times by all people. That is why the support of the loved ones
becomes so crucial. Having your partner, family member or friend to lean on
during this trying time in your life becomes an essential component of recovery.
The Lesotho Breast Cancer Network objective is to provide support for new
breast cancer patients countrywide. Trained volunteers who have personally
experienced breast cancer and its treatment render this service together with
Qualified Health professionals who volunteer for the services and promote breast
self examination. They provide emotional and practical support to new and old
breast cancer patients. We are appealing to the Business community, church
groups, Community councils and leaders to give a warm hearted support to these
Be visionary, have an emotional intelligence and offer solidarity, make a donation
P.O Box 10436 * Maseru 100 * Lesotho
Phones * (+266) 63102600 / (+266) 58566958 Donate as little as R10
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