Breast cancer is on the rise, making affordable approaches to detection, diagnosis and treatment urgent! Make sure you know the signs …
Breast cancer is on the rise
“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. It is also the principle cause of death from cancer among women globally with some 522 000 deaths in 2012 alone,” says Dr Konji Sebati, CEO of the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa (IPASA).
Quoting statistics from the International Agency from Research on Cancer, Dr. Sebati says that the incidence of breast cancer has increased by a frightening 20% over the past five years while mortality has increased by 14%. Breast cancer now represents one in every four cancers diagnosed in women.
Poor survival rates in Africa
Disturbingly, mortalities in developing regions – such as Africa – are markedly higher than in developed nations, pointing to later diagnoses and, often as a direct result, a much poorer survival rate.
“South Africa isn’t immune from this scourge. In 2009, over 6 200 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed across the population, representing a lifetime risk of one in every 33 women. All indications point to the fact that this figure has increased dramatically over the past six years,” Dr. Sebati points out.
IPASA, which represents a voluntary association of 25 leading international and local pharmaceutical companies dedicated to researching and developing novel medications, medical devices and diagnostic tools, is committed to helping the women of Africa – and the world – by continued investment by its member companies in the research and development of medicines and treatment options that could help reduce these frightening figures.
An urgent need in cancer control today is to develop effective and affordable approaches to the early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer among women living in less developed countries. It is critical to bring morbidity and mortality in line with progress made in recent years in more developed parts of the world,” says Dr. Christopher Wild, Director of IARC.
This is critical
In more developed parts of the world, 89% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive five years post diagnosis – a fact which is primarily the result of early detection and treatment.
“Although pharmaceutical companies across the world are working tirelessly on creating medicines that could one day help combat breast cancer, we cannot over-emphasise the importance of early detection,” says Dr. Sebati.
Symptoms and signs of breast cancer
Breast self-examinations are a vital part of breast cancer detection, particularly in developing nations. CANSA advocates that every woman should perform regular self-examinations at the same time every month, following her menstrual cycle, and report any changes or concerns to a doctor without delay.
Here are nine symptoms and signs of breast cancer to watch out for:
- Nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area
- A change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast (some describe this as similar to an orange peel’s texture)
- Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling anywhere on the breast
- Unexplained swelling of the breast (especially if on one side only)
- Unexplained shrinkage of the breast (especially if on one side only)
- Recent asymmetry of the breasts – although it is common for women to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other, if the onset of asymmetry is recent, it should be checked
- Nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted
- Skin of the breast, areola, or nipple that becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange
“In the absence of 100% effective treatment regimes, it is crucial that we do everything in our power to raise awareness of the risks, symptoms and signs of breast cancer,” Dr. Sebati concludes.