AWARENESS MONTH

Healthy lifestyle key to reducing breast cancer — expert

Don’t wait to feel pain to get checked, women should get checked at least once a year

In Summary

• Don’t wait to feel the pain to get checked, women should get checked at least once a year

• There are lots of myths about the different types of foods to eat to prevent cancer. Cancer cannot be prevented but chances and risks can be lower.

As October is observed as National Breast cancer awareness month, it’s important for women to have a better understanding of the disease which affects approximately 34 per 100,000 people.

According to the Ministry of Health, there are about 6,000 new cases of breast cancer every year resulting in around 2,500 deaths.

In 2020 alone, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths were reported globally according to the World Health Organization.

A study published by Asco post on February 2021, on Cancer related mortality rates in Kenya, attributes the adoption of unhealthy lifestyles, alcohol and tobacco consumption and less physical exercise to the rising cancer incidents.

Oncologist and Doctor Nicholas Abinya also supports that.

“There are lots of myths about the different types of foods to eat to prevent cancer. Cancer cannot be prevented but chances and risks can be lower,” Abinya told the Star.

“Some of that advice is not full proof, that good food may not prevent you from getting cancer but incorporating healthy diets in our day to day life will not only serve you better health but also lower the risk of other diseases that come with old age.”

The study continues to state that the improvement in the diagnostic capabilities by the government by launching the new cancer control strategy and breast awareness campaign may have contributed to the increased incidence of the disease.

Breastfeeding mothers at Pumwani Hospital during the celebrations of World Breastfeeding Week.
BETTER BABY HEALTH: Breastfeeding mothers at Pumwani Hospital during the celebrations of World Breastfeeding Week.
Image: PATRICK VIDIJA
Oncologist Dr. Nicholas Abinya during an interview with the Star at Nairobi Hospital on September 30, 2021.
Oncologist Dr. Nicholas Abinya during an interview with the Star at Nairobi Hospital on September 30, 2021.
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

You can reduce the risk by avoiding alcohol, avoiding being obese, post-menopausal obese, doing exercise that makes you sweat and also reducing weight especially post-menopausal.

“In addition one of the first lines of defence against breast cancer is going for regular screening and most of all performing regular self-exams,” Dr Abinya said.

Experts recommend checking breasts every month both visually and by touch.

“Pay attention to how the nipple looks or feels,” he said.

According to the World Health Organization, the general symptoms of breast cancer are abnormal nipple discharge, there is a best lump(s), dimpling, redness, pitting or other alteration in the skin.

Other symptoms may include, change in nipple appearance or alteration in the skin surrounding the nipple (areola).

“Early detection helps one to start treatment early and prevent further damage. Don’t wait to feel the pain to get checked, women should get checked at least once a year,” Dr Abinya said.

The health expertsaid the treatment for this generally consists of radiation therapy to control the disease in the breast and surgery.

Systemic therapy involves the use of oral drugs that can also be given to treat or reduce the risk of cancer spreading or hormonal therapy which anti-cancer medicines are given or in some cases chemotherapy.

“Cancer just like Covid-19 can wipe away your bank account with a blink of an eye, it is therefore important for Kenyans to start practising healthy lifestyles especially the young generation, or else they will pay dearly in the future,” Dr Abinya adds.

Edited by D Tarus