First of all, November has crept up on me so surreptitiously I keep forgetting it’s there. Despite the fact that we are now on the third day of the eleventh month, my pen keeps itching to write ’10’ whenever I’m scribbling the date on something. We are now frighteningly close to Christmas (although Checkers and Woolies had us believing that six weeks ago), New Year’s resolutions and the end of 2014.
Second of all, we are now also very much done with October. Which saddens me as October truly is my favourite time of year. It marks the start of summer (happiness!). It is also a time when Johannesburg becomes ablaze with the jewel tones of Jacarandas. And lastly, it is a month in which there is an abundance of pink, as we are asked to delve into our pockets and buy pink bracelets, hair pieces, key rings and cellphone covers, all of which is in the name of “breast cancer awareness”.
Ah, cancer. A gut-wrenching word, that makes your stomach want to fall through your legs when you hear it mentioned alongside a loved one’s name. A word that springs to mind when you feel a funny lump or bump, when you find strange bruises on your body, when you have moments of extreme fatigue. A word which carries fear, and pain, and sadness.
Cancer, however, is also a heavily researched topic. In many cases we know what predisposes you to cancer, how you can reduce that risk and most importantly, we know how to treat cancer. And this knowledge is not reserved for people who work in hospitals and specialist centres. It is available and so easily accessible that for me, there is no option but to empower yourself with this knowledge. Cancer is scary, but it’s a teeny tiny bit less scary when you know more about it. And as women, all of whom have a lovely pair of boobs, it is not only your right but your responsibility to know as much as you can about your health and your body. To me there is no point in wearing a pink ribbon on your shirt in support of breast cancer awareness, if you yourself are not truly aware of it.
So let’s start here. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers amongst women, along with skin, lung and cervical cancer. Cancer itself basically means an overgrowth of abnormal cells, with the potential to spread to other parts of the body. One of the most common ways that breast cancer presents is a lump in the breast, but you may also notice things like a change in the shape of the breast, or an abnormal dimpling and puckering of the skin. Remember – a lump in your breast does not always mean cancer!
Researchers have also identified various risk factors for cancer. These include obesity, a lack of exercise, alcohol use and family history.
Treatment options once you have been diagnosed with breast cancer vary greatly, but they include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. However, as the old saying goes, prevention is greater than cure. So what can you do today to reduce your breast cancer risk tomorrow?
First of all, you have to look at the changing your lifestyle according to the risk factors above. Things like weight loss, exercise and cutting down on your alcohol intake can significantly reduce your risk of cancer. Secondly, get to know your boobs! Once a month examine your breasts. It’ll take you five minutes, but it is so important in identifying anything out of the ordinary. If you do happen to find a lump that you are worried about, schedule an appointment with your GP. Early detection and treatment of breast cancer increases treatment success and reduces the risk of recurrence. Also, if you are over 40 you should be going for annual mammograms. Although it is generally a very unpleasant experience, it is important in detecting anything that shouldn’t be there.
Remember that you are responsible for the health and wellness of your body. Treat it as the glorious machine that it is! Take care of your body, look after your boobs and empower yourself with the information available. For me, breast cancer awareness shouldn’t be something we do for one month of the year. It shouldn’t just mean clipping a pink strand of hair in or running down the streets of Parkhurst in your bra. It means looking after your body, taking care of your boobs and always learning about your health and wellness.
So go on – feel your boobs!
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