- Written by Queen Munguti for KenyaKidz
October is breast cancer awareness month and in order to commemorate the day, The Nairobi Women’s Hospital will for the whole of this month offer free breast examinations at all its branches.
In Kenya, cancer is the third highest cause of morbidity; seven per cent of deaths each year are caused by the disease. The leading cancers in Kenyan women are breast, cervical and esophagus with 34 per 100,000 women in the country affected by breast cancer.
Its most common symptom is a lump that develops in the breast, it can be painless and hard when touched however not all lumps are cancerous, either way; it is advisable for one to visit the doctor if they find a lump on their breast.
Other symptoms include: nipple soreness and in some cases they (nipples) may change position, nipple discharge when not pregnant, the change of one’s breast skin’s texture to orange-reddish, itchiness on the breast that leads one to scratch themselves to the point of developing a severe rash and nipple retraction.
Women are thus advised to conduct breast self-exams once a month in order to note any changes on their breasts. According to a study by the US medical research institute, John Hopkins, published in the National Breast Cancer Organisation, 40 per cent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular self-exam is important.
“While mammograms can help one detect cancer before feeling the lump, breast self-exams help them to be familiar with how their breasts look and feel so they can alert their doctor if they see any changes.”
Breast cancer is a hereditary disease, whereby if a mother has it at a young age there is a high chance of their child being affected by it, although this is not always the case. Other causes include; drinking too much alcohol, maintaining a poor diet which mainly consists of fatty foods and a lack of fruits and vegetables, exposure to radiation, obesity, postmenopausal hormone therapy, early menstruation before the age 12 and late menopause after the age of 55 among others.
However, it is not just a disease that affects women, breast cancer also affects men. In an interview with Voice of America, Dr Andrew Odhiambo, an oncologist at the Kenyatta Hospital stated that it is rare in men but they have been reported cases in the country.
“About one per cent of all breast cancers will be in males and in some regions it is even less, even up to 0.5 per cent, so for every 100 cases of breast cancer diagnosed, you might stumble one who is male,” said Dr Odhiambo.
The Nairobi Women’s Hospital will also offer discounted cancer screening rates for pap smear, breast ultrasound unilateral, breast ultrasound bilateral, prostate specific antigen, ovarian cancer (CA-125), breast cancer (CA15-3), pancreatic cancer (CA19-9), live cancer (AFP) and colon cancer (CEA).