By: Poelano Malema
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The World Health Organization reports that in 2020, there were 2.3-million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths globally.
What is breast cancer?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes breast cancer as a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control.
There are two main types of breast cancer as described by CDC.
Invasive ductal carcinoma. The cancer cells begin in the ducts and then grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.
Invasive lobular carcinoma. Cancer cells begin in the lobules and then spread from the lobules to the breast tissues that are close by. These invasive cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.
Symptoms of breast cancer?
The following symptoms are highlighted by the World Health Organisation:
– A breast lump or thickening;
– Alteration in size, shape or appearance of a breast;
– Dimpling, redness, pitting or other alteration in the skin;
– Change in nipple appearance or alteration in the skin surrounding the nipple (areola); and/or
– Abnormal nipple discharge.
Living with breast cancer
Maphuti Poto from Tembisa in Gauteng is a victim of breast cancer.
She says she discovered that she had a lump on her breast in 2020 and went to consult with her doctor.
“In May  they told me I have stage 2 cancer.”
Maphuti says she was so glad she found out sooner than later, because she was able to start with chemotherapy.
“I started chemotherapy in August. It was painful. Chemo is very painful,” says Maphuti.
She says following the treatment, she started suffering from anxiety and would fall sick.
“The third chemo I was so sick,” says Maphuti.
She says living with breast cancer has not been easy.
One of the first changes she faced was losing her hair.
“I remember the day my hair fell, I cried, I was so emotional,” says the mother of four.
As a result of being bald, she says some people would question if she had cancer.
At first, she didn’t feel comfortable sharing with the world that she was suffering from cancer because of all the stereotypes that come with it.
She says some of the things people have said was that cancer patients act like victims and are always asking for donations.
Maphuti says she wishes more people would research about cancer and stop with the prejudice.
“What I can say to people, especially women, is that they must self-examine. I first had a lump. Check yourself every three weeks. Also, go and do pap smear at the clinic. It is free at the clinic.”
Maphuti says as someone who lives with breast cancer, she has had to make drastic changes to her lifestyle because her immune system had been compromised.
As someone who has had to watch her mom and son battle with cancer, she says she is determined to fight and win the cancer battle for her family.
“Cancer is in my family genes, so there is nothing I can do about that. What I can do is to pray that it ends with me and doesn’t go to future generations,” says Maphuti.
“My son was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The doctors also picked it up earlier and were able to treat it. My mother also had cancer of the womb and the doctors discovered at stage four, so she didn’t survive,” says the mother.
As a result, Maphuti says she is determined to take it upon herself to educate people about cancer.
“If you pick up the cancer in the early stages, it can be treated,” she concludes.
READ: Walking for breast cancer – 3 women’s motivation
Image supplied by Maphuti Poto