Ruth Masinge
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In South Africa, the month of October is known as “Pink Month” or Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Contrary to popular belief, breast cancer occurs both in men and women; however, it is far more common in women. This type of cancer is among the top five terminal diseases of women globally.

If it is detected early, it can be treated. Regular at-home examinations have saved millions of lives. The most common first signs of breast cancer are a new lump in the breast or underarm, swelling of the breast, irritation around the breast, or redness or flaky skin on the nipple. The question is, how often should you check your breasts?

PDBY interviewed two students, Mpho Molestane and Sarah Adams to gauge whether students are worried about this type of cancer.

Did you know that October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Molestane: No, actually. Now that I think about it, I didn’t know it had a whole month dedicated to it.
Adams: Yes, we used to do things to create awareness during this month in high school.

Do you regularly conduct a self-examination at home?
Molestane: No, I have never worried about breast cancer. I would not even know where to begin to do such a thing.
Adams: I mean, not regularly. But once in a while, yes, I do check if my breasts still feel normal, so to say.

Although the experiences of two students do not speak for some 40 000 students, it is safe to say that breast cancer may not be on a student’s mind in the way health professionals would like it to be.

It is important to never forget that although some people are more genetically predisposed than others to developing
breast cancer, everyone is susceptible. Here are some tips from the Cancer Association of South Africa on how to conduct a breast self-exam:

In the mirror
• In front of a mirror, check for any changes in the normal look and feel of your breasts, such as dimpling, size difference, or nipple discharge.
• Inspect four ways: arms at sides, arms overhead, firmly pressing hands on hips, and bending forward.

Lying down
• Lie on your back with a pillow under your right shoulder and your right hand under your head.
• With the four fingers of your left hand, make small circular motions and follow an up-and-down pattern over the entire breast area, under the arms, and up to the shoulder bone, pressing firmly.
• Repeat using your right hand on the left breast.

While bathing
• With your right arm raised, check your right breast with a soapy left hand and your fingers flat using the method described under step two (‘Lying down’).
Repeat on the other side.

Discuss any changes with your medical practitioner.