Breast Cancer in Africa

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a short piece on my experience with breast cancer (since renamed "One breast beats being dead").  Now I read that breast cancer is on the rise in South Africa especially amongst young black women (under 35).  However the worst thing is that the survival rates are very poor because this group of women do not seek medical help until it is too late.   As many as 60 – 80% of women at one clinic arrive when the cancer has reached an advanced stage and is terminal. 

Some stats quoted in the article.

Something I did not know is that worldwide there has been a 21% increase in BC over the past 15 years.

In SA more women die from BC than any other cancer including cervical cancer which used to be the number 1 killer.

The five year survival rate for black women is 64% as opposed to 80% for white women in SA – quite a huge difference.

The provision of mammograms in the public health sector is poor so black women are less likely to have access to screening or breast exams given by professionals.  Self-examination is not satisfactory on its own as a tumor may not be a lump but possibly a mass of tissue spread over quite a large area of the breast.  Unless you are trained professionally you may not pick that up – as I didn’t.

For me the two questions are why is there a rise in cases of BC amongst
black SA women? For this I have no answer but I think it is a very
important question;  and why are black women seeking help too late?
It is only when BC has reached the terminal stage that a woman becomes
aware that she is ill.   BC does not come with any symptoms or illness
(other than if you feel a lump) which is probably why so many black
women are not coming forward in time for appropriate treatment to be a
success.  So unless preventive measures are taken eg BC awareness
campaigns, self-examination training, access to mammograms then black
women will continue to die unnecessarily from BC.