Breast cancer awareness Month

Boitumelo Maswabi
Bonang Motlhanka

How aware are you?

While cancer is perceived by many as the ultimate death sentence, and despite the abundance of information disseminated by both government and non-governmental organisations during this month of breast cancer awareness, many women remain ill informed about this epidemic.

As breast Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, Voice Woman went into the streets of Gaborone to ask women of varying ages the following what they know about breast cancer, whether they conduct breast examinations – the Touch, Look, Check (TLC) method, and lastly, if they know factors associated with increased risk of breast cancer, which includes the simple fact that one is female, age, history of breast conditions and family history of breast cancer, radiation exposure, alcohol and obesity, among other factors.

Bonang Motlhanka, 24, Molepolole

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I can honestly say I don’t know much about breast cancer, save for the fact that this is breast cancer awareness month and I have come across information via radio regarding breast self-examination.

Though I cannot claim to know exactly how that is done, occasionally I do check for any abnormalities on the sides of the breasts, squeeze and so on and so forth.

I appreciate the importance of examining my breasts regularly even though I don’t know how regular but after this interview, I will begin to pay attention and also remind my peers.

Motlatsi Motlhanka, 47, Molepolole.

I’m surprised my daughter, who is more educated than I am, has very little knowledge of this.

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The expectation is that she should be more informed than me. We never discuss such issues even though about 2 years ago, I had a health scare when I felt for some mass in my left breast.

Motlatsi Motlhanka

I went to see Dr Patel, who is our family doctor and he referred me to Village Imaging for a mammogram.

Thankfully that initial screening came back negative; it was not cancer and the mass has since disappeared.

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I usually do annual checkups as I’m aware menopausal women are at a higher risk of breast cancer and other health issues.

Emelda Metlhaleng, 25, Bokaa

What I know is that we have to be alert to any changes to our breasts.

Emeldah Metlhaleng

My boyfriend, in fact, is the one who is always keen to examine my breasts. (chuckles) …At first, I thought he was obsessed with my boobs but he explained that he cares about my health and so I guess I’m blessed in that regard because, frankly, I tend to neglect myself.

Also, I now realize that I am ill-informed about breast cancer even though information on it is everywhere.

We young people are too preoccupied with life thus we do not pay attention. I advise my contemporaries to learn the TLC method, and allow their partners to assist them. (laughs)

Laone Morewatlala, 27, Lobatse

Though I’m aware it is breast cancer awareness month, I have not taken heed of the advice given.

Laone Morewatlala

My family does not have a history of breast or any cancer; perhaps it’s why I haven’t considered informing myself enough.

Be that as it may, I go for the annual Pap smear to watch out for cervical cancer.

Pearl Bathoen, 26,Tlokweng

I work as a healthcare assistant at the National Health Laboratory, and we’re currently busy as my department deals with the current pandemic.

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I was working night shift, and as you may be aware, it has been rather hectic for us.

Peal Bathoen

Thus, I’m clueless about current events and have not done my annual visits to the gynecologist even; that’s goes to show how the last one and a half years have been.

I advise young people like myself to take care of themselves and do regular checks.

I know obesity is a risk factor and though I appear overweight, I believe this is genetic, there are no small-bodied people in my family, this is not to say I don’t do anything to avoid risk of obesity, I do eat right.


Breast cancer arises in the lining cells (epithelium) of the ducts (85%) or lobules (15%) in the glandular tissue of the breast.

Initially, the cancerous growth is confined to the duct or lobule (“in situ”) where it generally causes no symptoms and has minimal potential for spread (metastasis).

Breast cancer treatment can be highly effective, especially when the disease is identified early.

Treatment of breast cancer often consists of a combination of surgical removal, radiation therapy and medication (hormonal therapy, chemotherapy and/or targeted biological therapy. Such treatment, which can prevent cancer growth and spread, thereby saves lives.

Scope of the problem

In 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally.

As of the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer.

Who is at risk?

Breast cancer is not a transmissible or infectious disease. Approximately half of breast cancers develop in women who have no identifiable breast cancer risk factor other than gender (female) and age (over 40 years).

Certain factors increase the risk of breast cancer including increasing age, obesity, harmful use of alcohol, family history of breast cancer, history of radiation exposure, reproductive history (such as age that menstrual periods began and age at first pregnancy), tobacco use and postmenopausal hormone therapy.

Behavioural choices and related interventions that reduce the risk of breast cancer include:

• prolonged breastfeeding;

• regular physical activity;

• weight control;

• avoidance of harmful use of alcohol;

• avoidance of exposure to tobacco smoke;

• avoidance of prolonged use of hormones; and

• avoidance of excessive radiation exposure.

Signs and symptoms

Breast cancer most commonly presents as a painless lump or thickening in the breast.

It is important that women finding an abnormal lump in the breast consult a health practitioner without a delay of more than 1-2 months even when there is no pain associated with it.

Seeking medical attention at the first sign of a potential symptom allows for more successful treatment.

Generally, symptoms of breast cancer include:

• a breast lump or thickening;

• alteration in size, shape or appearance of a breast;

• dimpling, redness, pitting or other alteration in the skin;

• change in nipple appearance or alteration in the skin surrounding the nipple (areola); and/or

• abnormal nipple discharge.

[Source: World Health Organisation]

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