Nearly 90 per cent of breast lumps are not cancerous, an oncologist has said.
Dr Miriam Mutebi, a surgical oncologist, said the presence of lumps in the breast is not an automatic symptom of cancer.
“Nine times out of 10, lumps found in the breast are not cancerous. Do not let fear drive you because 90 per cent of those occurrences will not amount to anything life-threatening,” said Dr Mutebi.
But the medic discouraged Kenyans from the practice of waiting until they experience pain and other symptoms of discomfort before seeking treatment.
“You don’t need to wait for symptoms before seeing a doctor. Pain does not necessarily mean you are developing cancer because lumps in the breast are not painful,” she said.
According to The Guardian, a British newspaper, cancer is the third highest cause of death in Kenya and those who suffer from it often cannot afford treatment.
“Cancer causes seven per cent of deaths per year in Kenya, and breast cancer is the most common form,” says an April 7 edition of the newspaper.
Addressing participants on Sunday during an event held to mark the Breast Cancer Awareness Month by Barclays Bank and Twakutukuza Trust, Dr Mutebi asked Kenyans to go for regular cancer check-ups saying the disease is treatable if detected early.
Using the analogy of regular servicing for cars as a way to ensure they are in good condition, she appealed to Kenyans to embrace regular medical check-ups as a way to detect and treat cancer in its early stages.
“Just like we regularly take our cars for servicing after a number of kilometres, regular medical check-ups are necessary to detect if there are any signs of cancer developing in our bodies. At times, some of us treat our cars better than we treat our own bodies,” she said.
The medic, who is a co-founder of the Pan African Women’s Association of Surgeons, which aims to provide mentorship and support for women in surgery and advocate the improvement of women’s health and surgical health care on the continent, said there was need for people to be more aware of their bodies so as to quickly spot any new signs and symptoms that point to the onset of disease.
“We need to be more aware of our bodies, detect new developments and subsequently push our doctors to pay attention to them,” she said.
Dr Mutebi said Kenyans should be in control of their health and regular check-ups enable physicians to detect and manage anything likely to affect their health, including cancers.
“You are the primary drivers of what happens to your body and doctors are partners in your quest to enjoy a healthy and quality life. Only regular check-ups will help physicians assess new developments like pain in a certain areas, swellings and growths. These will enable them to carry out further tests and investigations that will detect cancer in early and easily manageable stages,” she said.
Dr Mutebi, who works at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi as a consultant breast surgeon and lecturer and has spent a year as a surgical oncology research fellow pursuing research on quality of life in breast cancer survivors in the Western Cape region of South Africa, said only 10 per cent of breast cancers are genetic.
“Only 10 per cent of breast cancers are majorly based on family history. The other incidences are sporadic and hence all of us should go for check-ups to minimise the risk of developing cancers undetected,” she said.
Kenya National Cancer Organisation chairman David Makumi said no particular food was known to predispose individuals to cancer.
He, however, said tobacco and alcohol are major risk factors for multiple cancers, saying Kenyans needed to be aware of them so as to make healthy life choices.
“Alcohol in any form, whether chang’aa or expensive red wine, contains ethanol which is a major risk factor for 12 types of cancer, including that of the breast. The same risk applies to tobacco in all its forms, including the fashionable shisha, which a lot of young people consume in urban areas,” said Dr Makumi.
Speaking at the event, cancer survivor and Twakutukuza Trust founder Doris Mayoli said ignorance is one of the major threats standing in the way of women getting help for breast cancer.
“Because of ignorance, you just don’t imagine it can happen to you. Until I was treated and discharged from hospital 12 years ago, I hadn’t met a single person that had undergone a similar experience and that was why I chose to publicise my experience in order to assist others in similar situations, she said.
Musili Kivuitu, a trustee of Twakutukuza, said the group had spent more than Sh38 million in assisting more than 700 patients.
Barclays Bank marketing and corporate relations director Carol Ndung’u said the bank was committed to a healthy Kenyan society by supporting Twakutukuza in raising funds to treat and manage patients registered in the organisation.
“When a well society prospers, we also prosper. By partnering with Twakutukuza over the last few years, our aim is to ensure we play a role in sustaining meaningful conversations and responses around the whole area of breast cancer awareness, treatment and management,” said Ms Ndung’u.