Medical Experts and Oncologists Kick Off Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In this modern era of great successes in medical care, the incidence of breast cancer forever on the rise, and the manifestations of the disease continue to be felt in a lot of ways.

Breast Cancer launch Agenda
Breast Cancer launch Agenda

Global beauty and personal care company Avon Justine will kickstart the commemoration of breast cancer awareness month in October with a webinar where medical experts will share insights on the medical journey that breast cancer patients go through and how chronic disease impacts many aspects of the lives of those infected and affected by this chronic disease.

Breast cancer remains a leading cause of cancer death among women across the world. According to the National Cancer Register, apart from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women of all races, with a lifetime risk of 1 in 25 in South Africa.

The webinar will be attended by the media, breast cancer patients, breast cancer survivors and Avon influencers. Among the dignitaries who have confirmed attendance is Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, who is also a breast cancer survivor.

The topics that will be discussed by a panel of medical experts and oncologists are:

  • Emotions of breast cancer screening by Dr M Talatala;
  • Decision making on early breast cancer surgical treatment options by Prof C Benn;
  • The breast cancer treatment Journey by Dr S Ngidi; and
  • Breast reconstruction impact on the quality of life Prof E Ndobe

“As a company for women, Avon has always been at the forefront of championing awareness and education about breast cancer awareness. Working with our partners, we have emphasised the critical importance of early detection, which makes a difference between complete recovery and in certain cases even death,” says Mafahle Mareletse, Managing Director of Avon Justine.

“This webinar seeks to take information dissemination about breast cancer a notch higher and to ensure that those infected and affected by breast cancer intimately understand the journey of breast cancer treatment and can make informed decisions.”

The highest incidence of breast cancer is seen in the developed world whereas the highest mortality rates are higher in low-income countries. The higher breast cancer mortality rates typically seen in lower-income countries are mainly due to late diagnosis in higher disease stages and as a result of access barriers in cancer care.

There is widely reported evidence of a higher earlier stage diagnosis of breast cancer in developed countries compared to lower-income countries where there is proportionately fewer individuals who get diagnosed in the early stages of the disease.

Much has also been written about comparatively longer delays in seeking treatment and poorer quality of care in underdeveloped countries.

Experts have found that barriers to early breast cancer detection are not only about poverty and socio-cultural issues.

“In fact many health workers have even questioned the role of screening mammography in reducing mortality from breast cancer, raising concerns about whether the possible harm of over diagnosis and over treatment may not end up outweighing anticipated benefits. We strongly firmly believe that we all ought to collectively contribute towards increased research on prevailing access barriers and underlying factors that derail quality of care,” says Dr Molefi Molefi, Chairperson of Journeysys.

Dr Molefi said such research would become absolutely vital if we were to “realise appropriately crafted public health policies that are better suited to strengthen the health system’s ability to deal with this deadly disease.”

“It is for that reason that we thought it ‘expedient’ to highlight topical areas across the breast cancer trajectory that talk directly or indirectly to ‘early breast cancer detection’ and indeed inform us accordingly as we sharpen our engagement strategies further,” he adds.

Emotions of breast cancer screening.

There is no doubt that social and cultural factors influence women’s experience of breast cancer. Whilst the social construction of the disease, availability of resources to expedite its management, and the type of treatment which is used to manage the disease all feature very strongly in breast cancer care, a lot of personal experiences reflect disharmony with supernatural forces and a myriad of cultural issues pushing for alternative therapies.

It is therefore clear that belief systems and cultural practices perhaps ought to be addressed in breast cancer awareness and education programs.

This is despite an evident role played by a variety of emotion-related factors, including fear, anxiety and excessive worry contributing towards detection behaviour, diagnosis, choice of prevention, treatment and health-seeking behaviour.

Early breast cancer radiation therapy

It has been reported that long-term outcomes in the provision of a once-off targeted intraoperative radiotherapy during lumpectomy show similar efficacy with lower non-breast cancer mortality when compared with the use whole-breast external beam radiotherapy.

However, concerns over possible local recurrence rates have resulted in the use of whole breast radiotherapy remaining the standard of care.

Many health workers are now favouring targeted radiotherapy after lumpectomy, preferably for more women with early-stage breast cancer, including younger patients and those with ductal carcinoma in situ.

Quality of Life impact of adjuvant Chemotherapy in Breast Cancer

Adjuvant chemotherapy impacts significantly in the management of breast cancer, it is, therefore, imperative to keep track of the quality of life (QOL) and the resulting adverse effects following the use of chemotherapy

Quality of life assessment

Impact of adjuvant chemotherapy on quality of life is monitored using a breast cancer Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy questionnaire measuring:

  1. global quality of life
  2. depression
  3. unmet sexuality needs

It measures:

  1. related sociodemographic
  2. treatment variables such as TNM stage, surgery method, use of hormone and radiation therapy
  3. outcome variables – side effects, health improvement, overall survival rates

Surgical treatment options in early breast cancer

One of the most difficult decisions a woman can be faced with when choosing breast cancer treatment is whether or not to undergo breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy.

The factors that influence these treatment decisions are complex and involve a variety of issues including:

  1. access to health care
  2. concerns about cancer recurrence
  3. impact of surgery on body image
  4. sexuality.

Shared decision-making is a process that informs patients about the most appropriate treatments available and is particularly suited to helping the patient make treatment decisions in the management of breast cancer.

Quality of life post-breast reconstruction

In this modern era of great successes in medical care, the incidence of breast cancer is forever on the rise, and the manifestations of the disease continue to be felt in a lot of ways.

Nowadays breast cancer suffers, particularly patients in the early stages of the disease, are now able to select widely between breast-conserving treatments such as a lumpectomy followed by radiation or can do breast reconstruction after mastectomy, instead of being confined to a mastectomy alone.

When we quantify the effects of the use of all these wonderful techniques on patient’s lives we utilize a variety of QOL measuring questionnaires to get a sense of the patients’ wholistic wellness, and their fulfilment and satisfaction following any such intervention.


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