NAIROBI, Kenya, April 6 – Breast cancer is one of the leading killers in the country. It is also the second most frequently diagnosed form of cancer among women in Kenya. According to the Nairobi Cancer Report, although incidences of the disease here are low when compared to the developed countries, breast cancer mortality in Kenya is relatively high.
An estimated 80– 90 percent of the breast cancer patients are discovered within stage 3 or 4 of the disease. This is not just happening in women, men too are getting breast cancer.
Doctors advise that one conducts a self breast examination especially if one notices any suspicious growth on their breasts or armpits. But medical advise is encouraged because some tumours are not cancerous.
There are many advantages of early detection of breast cancer.
Aga Khan University Hospital Breast Surgeon Dr Ronald Wasike says: “If you detect the disease early the possibilities are quite many, most important is the survival of the patient.”
Another advantage is less surgery is required because a mastectomy can be avoided.
Mastectomy is a medical term meaning the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely.
Dr Wasike also says breasts can be preserved because there is new technology in the market meaning that one does not have to remove the lymph nodes.
A radio active material is used to trace and remove nodes that have cancer without injuring the nerves, blood vessels and also prevents swelling.
The doctor explains: “It is a very beautiful surgery done, and the outcome is very good. And you know that you have cured this patient and that he or she will remain with their beautiful breasts.”
He says most ideal is to do a self examination annually especially after attaining the age of 20 years.
A doctor examines suspicious lumps and then does a radiological and laboratory assessment which involves ultra sound for people below 40 years and a mammogram for those above 40.
The two assessments will confirm if the lump is cancerous or not.
Dr Wasike says individualized care is started depending on the condition of every patient.
Early care suppresses and can stop the spread of the disease.
Simple self breast examination
Dr Wasike takes us through a simple self breast examination.
“Stand before your mirror in the morning, hold your hands akimbo and check to see if your nipples are at the same level.
Skin colour: “Then look at the skin colour, it should be the same. Some of the breast problems present themselves with an inflammation, and if it is there the breast will be red.”
Shape and size: “Usually the left breast is bigger than the right one, but look out to see if there is any unusual change in size and shape of your breasts. During the menstrual period breasts are hard, so that is usual.”
“Using your right hand’s three middle fingers, press on the left armpit, check for any unusual swellings, and then press the left breast making a circular movement way up to the nipple.
Repeat the same process on the left armpit and breast.
Then lie flat on your back and repeat the same process, if you detect any lumps, see a doctor to establish if they are cancer tumours.
The Kenya Breast Health Programme
The Kenya Breast Health Programme (KBHP) is a national non-profit programme that was founded by a breast cancer survivor in 1999.
According to KBHP research, one in nine women in Kenya is diagnosed with breast cancer.
Every year, breast cancer kills around 40,000 women globally.
In its latest report, not only women are predisposed to developing breast cancer but men are also at a growing risk of developing the killer disease. However comprehensive statistics are yet to be released on the prevalence of male breast cancer in Kenya.