Bee Talk with Beatrice Tonhodzayi
It is the month of October; that time of the year when you see a lot of pink ribbons around.
Yes; it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and when I went in to the food shop for milk yesterday I found all the salespeople wearing their pink ribbons proudly. Commendable, is that not? But it has to go beyond the ribbons.
I see a lot of efforts to promote runs and walkathons that will take place during the course of this month as a way of raising awareness around Breast Cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and indeed around this time of the month; people all over the world show their support for everyone affected by breast cancer.
It is at this time of the year that free breast cancer screening is rolled out as the whole world comes together to drive the message home that ‘early detection saves lives.’ And so it should be. This is because Breast Cancer is quite prevalent and is the second most common cancer among women in this country after cervical cancer.
It has become so prevalent that most of us know of someone who has suffered from it or who is currently dealing with it. My elderly mother was telling me the other day that most of her peers were complaining of how their daughters were just being diagnosed with breast cancer lately.
“Now each time someone says their daughter is ill; we end up hearing it is this cancer. This never used to happen in the past so I wonder why it has become so common now,” she said vehemently. And I can understand her. In her day she did not hear as much about these kind of conditions as we are now. Today even our children know about cancers because they have grown up hearing about them. So only a few of us are untouched when it comes to cancers and in this instance my focus is Breast Cancer.
Many among us have lost a loved one while in some situations we actually have a loved one who is battling this cancer. So we are none of us untouched.
It therefore is important for all of us to know as much as we can about this Cancer and I am encouraged to see that corporates, churches and indeed individuals are coming together in this month of October to spread the message around; to raise funds for Breast Cancer support and basically to just place the issue on the agenda so that we talk about it and engage around it.
Experts are clear about something though; that the earlier one finds out that there is a problem; the higher are the chances of getting it dealt with. Yes some have been able to beat breast cancer if they are diagnosed early enough. Treatment for Breast Cancer is dependent on the stages it is at; with the options being chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. So it is important to know early enough that something is wrong.
This is why my focus today is on encouraging women to go for regular breast examinations or even to conduct self-examinations. Symptoms to look out for include lumps in the breast, bloody discharge from the nipple and changes in the texture of the nipple or breast. Some do not have these symptoms but may experience breast discomfort, inverted nipple, lumps, or nipple discharge. Also common is skin redness or swollen lymph nodes. So be on the lookout for what may feel like lumps in the underarms (armpit) as well as thickening or swelling of part of the breast. To be able to do this women need to be very aware of their bodies and be comfortable enough with them to feel for these changes.
I am calling out to women over 35 today to start exercising as part of their daily routine breast examinations. Even your partner at home can help you out to see if anything looks amiss. This is about our lives and health so let us normalize checking ourselves out.
There are also things we can do to reduce our risk of getting breast cancer and these include limiting alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, breast feeding our babies and limiting hormonal therapies post menopause. Now you see why there are so many runs and walks this month. It is a call to action; to having more of us being active. Walk, run; do something. It is good for you and me.
Eating fruits and vegetables, not smoking and just doing things in moderation also helps. Now you see why these conditions are referred to as lifestyle conditions. At times the lifestyle choices we make affect our health in the long-term. So be careful about over-doing certain things.
Regular check-ups also help. Those with good health seeking behavior who go and ask their health service provider once they feel something is not ok; have a better chance of getting help sooner. So let us not sit at home while quaking in fear when we feel something is not right. Let us not self-diagnose and stress too much for stress is also said to be a contributor of some of these conditions. Now you see why it hits when you are older. Because most of us start really stressing post-35. This is when life just hits out at us and obviously stress becomes a part of our daily lives. Let us learn to manage and cope or we will have worse problems.
Away from prevention today I am also sending a shout-out to those ladies who are already battling breast cancer. They need our support. So if you know someone who has been diagnosed, be there for them. Love helps. That support counts. That prayer helps. The funds help. The care packages help. Survivor tales will also encourage those who have just started on this journey. So I am calling on those who have survived Breast Cancer or are living through it now to share their stories of hope with us. Let us be each other’s keeper in this Breast Cancer Awareness Month women. Let us share tips so we can look out for one another. Let it not just end with the pink ribbons; let us look out for one another.
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