The Sunday Mail
The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe wishes you all a happy Mothers’ Day and is delighted to share with you some health tips that will help our mothers live a happy life.
Remember a happy mother means a happy family, and happy families mean a healthy society.
As we buy each other gifts during Mothers’ Day, the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe wants us to also share important cancer information to prevent and promote early detection of cancers. These cancers usually cause a lot of suffering and even death to our beloved mothers.
In Zimbabwe, the most common cancers affecting our beloved mothers are cervical and breast cancers.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Zimbabwe. According to the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry, cervical cancer accounted for 34,8 percent of all new cancer cases among black women in 2015. Cervical cancer also constituted 19 percent of all new cancer cases and 12 percent of all the cancer deaths in 2015.
Cervical cancer is a disorder resulting from the abnormal growth of cells of the cervix lining which is the opening/mouth of the womb. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. It is therefore imperative for all sexually active women (even without showing any signs and symptoms) to be screened regularly as a way of preventing and facilitating early detection of cervical cancer.
This screening, Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid and Cervicography or commonly known as VIAC, has become readily available in Zimbabwe with most health centres providing the service for free. Thanks to the Ministry of Health and Child Care and its partners for decentralising this important service.
Breast cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers today. It is a type of cancer that starts from cells of the breast (chest and armpit ). In women, it usually starts in the tubes that carry milk to the nipple (ducts) and glands that make milk (lobules). Breast cancer is the second most common cancers in black women after cervical cancer.
According to the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry (NCR), it contributed 7 percent to both the total new cancer cases and total cancer deaths. It also contributed 11,9 percent to the total female cancer burden and also constituted 15,9 percent of the non-black female cancers in Zimbabwe. (NCR, 2015).
In Zimbabwe, Breast Self-Examination (BSE) is encouraged since most of the lumps are discovered by the women themselves. BSE, though simple, is an important method to enable the early detection of breast cancer, which in turn improve prognosis.
When detected in its early stages, this cancer is easier and cheaper to manage.
The method involves regularly looking out for possible lumps, distortions or swelling. One becomes familiar with the usual appearance and feel of their breasts and they will quickly detect any changes.
Women undergoing their menstrual periods are encouraged to do breast self-examination three to five days after their period. Men as well as women at menopause should choose a particular day of the month to do breast self-examination. Early detection of abnormalities gives the doctor a better chance to offer effective treatment.
Cervical cancer screening most frequently asked questions
How to do Breast Self-Examination (Steps)
Q: Why should I get screened of cervical cancer when I don’t have any signs and symptoms of the diseases?
A: Cervical cancer in its early stages might not show any signs and symptoms but screening can easily show some abnormalities which can be treated to stop the progression of precancerous cells to cervical cancer. Screening is key in the early detection of cervical cancer which improves the prognosis and increases the chance of cure and significantly reduces the cost of treatment. Other benefits of VIAC are identification and early treatment of sexually transmitted infections and other vaginal infections.
Q: When should I start cervical cancer screening and how often?
A: All sexually active women should be screened, preferably within three years from their first sexual activity. VIAC can even be done during mensuration or after miscarriage but when one is pregnant it should be postponed to six weeks after birth. Screening should be done every three years, however, those who are HIV-positive and those from high risk families should be screened more often (annually)
Q: Where can I get the screening services?
A: Cervical cancer screening is considered a priority in reducing the national cancer burden and as a result, the screening services are being decentralised. It is therefore important to visit your nearest clinic to inquire more about the nearest VIAC centre. The following health centres offer cervical cancer screening services — City of Harare clinics, New Start Centres, Parirenyatwa Hospital, Harare Central Hospital, most provincial and district hospitals. Screening is free at all public health centres.
Get screened of cervical cancer today! Visit the Cancer Association or your nearest clinic if you notice any abnormality.
For more information contact The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe, 60 Livingstone Harare (cnr 6th Street and Livingstone Avenue), Tel: +263 242 – 707444 / 705522, email: [email protected], website: www.cancerzimbabwe.org, Facebook: The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe and Twitter: @cancerzim — Disclaimer: Lovemore Makurirofa writes on behalf of the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe. However, both the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe and the writer will not be responsible for any damage that may arise from the views expressed in this article. This article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to substitute any health advice that you may get from your health/medical practitioner.
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How to conduct breast self-examination
- Stand before the mirror, inspect both breasts for any unusual discharge, dimpling, scaling, and puckering of the skin.
- Watching in the mirror, clasp hands behind the head and press head against hands. This helps to identify any changes in the shape or size as the muscles contract.
- Press hands on the hips and bend towards the front or mirror while pulling shoulders and elbows forward. The pulling of muscles helps to identify any abnormalities on the breasts.
- While in the shower, with soapy hands, lift arm and with four fingers of your right hand, gradually work from the outer edge of the breast in small circles towards the nipple. The circular movements will help identify any lumps or abnormalities. Follow the same process use your left hand to examine the right breast.
- Closely look for any discharges, rashes or scaling at the nipples of both breasts.
- Step 4 and 5 should be repeated while lying down on the back. With the left arm over the head, use the right arm to examine the left breast. With the right arm over the head, use the left hand to examine the right breast. The position flattens the breasts, making it easier to examine them for any abnormalities.