Despite the efforts of health care providers to raise awareness in Sierra Leone, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Some people still do not know about breast cancer; some deny the medical logic and instead choose to believe that is it related to witchcraft and some accept the medical science but are still apprehensive to get tested/diagnosed because they fear the associated stigma. The stigma in the community is primarily because more often than not, a diagnosis of breast cancer in Sierra Leone results in death.
Why? Simply put, having breast cancer in Sierra Leone is a double edged sword. On one hand, many do not get tested /diagnosed early and therefore have a decreased chance of survival. On the other hand, for the relative few who have access to testing and actually receive an early diagnosis, the necessary treatment options are not available in Sierra Leone. As a result, these persons have to travel to other countries for treatment. With the steady rise in diagnosis over the past few years, this model is not sustainable.
Private healthcare volunteer organizations are raising awareness and providing basic care when possible. However, with the rapid increase in diagnosis, the demand for treatment and ongoing care far outweigh the supply of available resources.
Our charge therefore is to partner with others and help raise funds to support initiatives aimed at ongoing community education to help debunk the stigma as well as initiatives aimed at acquiring medical resources and tools required in Sierra Leone for early diagnosis, comprehensive treatment and ongoing support for survivors.
What is Breast Cancer?
There are many cells in a breast.
These cells grow and sometimes the growth gets out of control.
When this happens, a tumor is usually formed.
Some tumors can be felt but some tumors can only be seen on an x-ray. Tumors can either be benign or malignant.
A benign tumor is not cancerous. It has cells that are normal, grow slowly and do not interfere with other tissues.
A malignant tumor is cancerous. It has cells that appear abnormal, grow rapidly and spread to other tissues.
What are the Stages of Breast Cancer?
The stage is determined by a combination of factors.
i.) The size of the tumor,
ii.) The growth rate of the tumor,
iii.) Whether or not the cells have spread to other tissues, and
iv.) Other genetic considerations.
The stages of Breast Cancer range from 0 – 4.
At Stage 0 and 1, the cancer cells are confined to a very limited area.
Stage 2 breast cancer is still in the earlier stages, but there is evidence that the cancer has begun to grow or spread. It is still contained to the breast area and is generally very effectively treated.
Stage 3 breast cancer is considered advanced cancer with evidence of cancer invading surrounding tissues near the breast.
Stage 4 breast cancer indicates that cancer has spread beyond the breast to other areas of the body.
If you feel a lump in your breast and are unsure of what it is, you should see a doctor. Your doctor will determine the right type of testing that you would need. The test results will help the doctor determine if you have cancer as well as the stage of the cancer.
What are some symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer does not always have visible or obvious symptoms. Doctors recommend doing a monthly breast self-exam. If you notice any changes, you should speak with your doctor.
Many experts declare the following breast changes as unusual.
•swelling of all or part of the breast
•skin irritation or dimpling
•nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
•redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
•a nipple discharge other than breast milk
•a lump in the underarm area
Can Breast Cancer be cured?
Early detection is critical.
Many women now live longer than five years past breast cancer.
This is mostly true when the breast cancer was detected early.
Can Breast Cancer be prevented?
Some lifestyle risk factors of Breast cancer that you can control include weight, diet, stress, exercise, alcohol consumption etc…
Who can get Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer is most prevalent in women.
However, men can have Breast Cancer too.
Anyone can get breast cancer.
A family history of breast cancer does not mean that you will definitely get breast cancer. Having breast cancer in the family is one of many other risk factors. Many people get breast cancer who have no prior family history of breast cancer.
Early Detection Saves Lives