Men, women urged to check their breasts

Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo, left, showed women how to perform a self-examination on their breasts. Pictured with her is Nozuka Ntshinga, from the Western Cape Department of health.

South Africa has the highest number of male breast cancer diagnoses in the world and every month about 12 000 women are treated for breast cancer at a state hospital.

This was revealed at the Heideveld community health centre on Thursday October 11 in commemoration of breast cancer awareness month.

Women came to have their breasts checked at the clinic by the Pink Drive non-profit company, which is a free walk-in clinic based in Belgravia.

Pink Drive also currently runs four “Pink” mobile breast check units, as well as nine educational cars.

All units travel to semi-urban and urban areas around South Africa with the aim of helping disadvantaged communities to access diagnostic mammography screening, education, physical examinations and learn how to do breast self-examination.

Speaking at the event was Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo, who encouraged men and women to have their breasts checked on a regular basis so that early detection of cancer is possible.

“It can affect anyone – men and women – it can be detected early if your breast is checked every month for men, and for women two days after your period because while you are on your period you might still have lumps. It can affect the old and young – the youngest person we had was diagnosed with breast cancer at 21 years old at Groote Schuur Hospital. If your family had breast cancer like your mom or a grandmother you are more likely to be affected,” she said.

Ms Mbombo said eight out 10 of the lumps detected in the breast might not be cancerous but almost 70% of cancer cases can be detected early. She also said that every two minutes a person is diagnosed with breast cancer.

“About 12 000 women are seen to regarding breast cancer at Groote Schuur Hospital. If you drink alcohol or don’t exercise you are more at risk. In South Africa more men are diagnosed with breast cancer than anywhere in the world,” she said.

She explained the correct way to examine your breast: “Stand in the mirror and look at your breast for any noticeable differences. Place one hand over your head and with your other hand start feeling under your arm in circular movements and then move to your breast. Move in slow movements with your fingers and once you get to your nipple squeeze it to see if any liquid or blood comes out. Also take note of any skin texture or colour changes on your breast or under your arm. Repeat on the other side.

Shereen Gasnola, 54, from Heideveld, was one of the women who had their breasts checked. “As females we sometimes have hormonal problems and we don’t always know what is happening and sometimes you feel a lump but you not sure if it’s normal or not normal so it is advisable to have it checked,” she said.

Naomi Josiah, 52, from Manenberg, had a sister who died from womb cancer three years ago and that’s why she felt it was important to have her breasts checked.

“I am a bit nervous but it is important that I have my breasts checked,” she said.