31 October 2018 | Story UFS | Photo Barend Nagel
Be mindful and listen to your body. Early breast cancer detection is the key to survival.

On a daily basis, our bodies send hundreds of thousands of messages to various cells, organs, and systems in order to keep functioning; the ability to listen to these messages can be crucial. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, it is about raising awareness and educating people about the disease as well as the importance of being mindful of body changes. 

According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), breast cancer is the number one cancer among South African women, yet many women still do not know how to examine their breasts or what signs and symptoms to look out for.
“We need to be aware of our bodies and take responsibility for our health. Many times, we realise something has changed in our bodies, but we ignore it or fear what the answers might be and therefore we wait,” said Professor Alicia Sherriff, Head of the UFS Department of Oncology.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be overwhelming at any age. However, being diagnosed at a young age comes with an immense amount of issues that complicate an already overwhelming diagnosis. This can make the natural thrill of university life completely disappear.

“Breast cancer affects both the body and mind. There is the stress of being diagnosed and needing various treatments, and then there is the physical and emotional changes caused by the cancer, the surgery, the chemotherapy, and the radiation,” said Prof Sherriff. 
How to reduce the risk?

It is important to monitor your own lifestyle choices, so that you can combat breast cancer before it starts. “Although you cannot prevent cancer, some habits can help reduce your risk,” Prof Sherriff said. 

Be familiar with your body – Notice any changes in the appearance or texture of your breasts and talk to your doctor.
Limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking – Both excess alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking has been linked to breast cancer.
Exercise and maintain a healthy weight – The more fat in a woman’s body, the more chances there are of cell overgrowth which can develop into breast cancer.
Eat a balanced diet – Choose protein-rich and wholegrain food, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables.

According to Prof Sherriff, getting to know your own body is of crucial importance to a woman’s health. Monthly breast self-examination is advised. “The earlier the diagnosis, the greater the possibility of cure and the better the prognosis. Cancer can be cured,” she said.
Visit your nearest healthcare facility to learn more about breast cancer and breast examination. Don’t ignore your body. 

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