Awareness is crucial in the fight against breast Cancer

Like many other cancers, one has a chance to survive breast cancer if treatment is started early. This means diagnosis must be done early and the best way for that to happen is when people normalise medical examinations (at least once every year)

Ms Gertrude Nakigudde is a breast cancer survivor and says anyone, as long as they have a breast can get the cancer and averagely, it is common among women between 40 and 44 years of age. It was from the lessons gained as a cancer patient as well as a caretaker that she saw it wise to create an advocacy organisation, Uganda Women’s Cancer Support Organisation (UWOCASO), to help survivors, patients and their families.

As such, advocacy is one of the major activities at UWOCASO and it involves sharing information about what breast cancer is, how one gets it, prevention and treatment. It also involves survivors sharing their journey, which is a great source of encouragement to those battling the disease. Additionally, advocates push for the rights of cancer patients so they can access more as well as better services.

“Awareness is crucial in the fight against cancer because many shy away from testing for breast cancer, fearing that the test might put them in danger. While many think that ignorance is bliss, knowing your status gives you a better fighting chance,” she says.

“Screening, which involves undergoing an ultrasound scan should be done by every women because it helps you avoid regrets but also means you can get treatment and save your life. Moreover, it is painless. While it is free in public medical facilities, it may cost between Shs10,000 and Shs30,000 in private facilities,” she adds.

Apart from self-examination and screening, there are other tests that one can do in case these two have shown negative results despite suspicions.

“While screening should be able to pick up on an abnormal growth in one’s breast, sometimes, depending on one’s age and breast size, they may fail. In such cases, one may go for a mammogram whose cost is between Shs100,000 and Shs150,000, depending on where it is done,” Nakigudde says.

However, when there are signs such as change of the colour of the skin around the breast, bloody discharge from the breast, breast dimpling or puckering, and peeling of the skin around the breast, there is no need to continue to the next form of check – biopsy. That is because all these are signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

That said, if a biopsy is necessary, when a mass looks suspicious yet the signs and symptoms stated above are not seen, Nakigudde says it is done by a pathologist. “Needle aided biopsy is done to remove a sample of cells from the suspicious tumour for closer examination,” she says. The service is free.

Summarily, awareness of breast cancer and other cancers will help to educate people about the ailment, and reduce stigma surrounding it. “It will also encourage those with the ailment to seek help rather than hide,” Nakigudde says.