Tag Archives: cancer

Are you a regular?

31 Jan

I for one make an effort to go annually and promptly. I have come to realize that time is precious and life is too short! It is not necessarily something that I look forward to but I’ve chosen my specialist with careful scrutiny while I never forget that the responsibility lies solely on me because after all, it’s my body.

Dr Bothner, is my FEMALE gynecologist and she practices in Parklane Hospital. She’s German born and still has the accent to match after all these years of being in sunny South Africa. Ease and confidence make her my number one gynecologist, and yes, I have had a few, some just plain ol’ creepy. And I’m sure I’ll see her until my nether regions malfunction or what ever they do when you get that close to the grave.

Last week was my second check-up since Samuel’s birth and all went well. What actually got me thinking about doing this post was the reaction of one of my friends, she was surprised at how good I was at keeping these appointments but what she didn’t know was that I have a family history of breast and ovarian cancer and that I have no choice but to be on high alert because there are some scary statistics out there!

My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer about six years ago and she had to have a partial mastectomy – in other words they had to take out parts of her breast tissue and some lymph nodes in her armpit because it had spread so far into her system. We were all really sad at the prospect of losing her but thank God, she’s a survivor who makes the trip every six months to stay in the clear. Just three months ago, on a ROUTINE check-up, they discovered another lump which caused much concern yet it was benign.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. It is also the principle cause of death from cancer among women globally. Despite the high incidence rates, in Western countries, 89% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive 5 years after their diagnosis, which is due to detection and treatment (Parkin, 2008). The map below which countries are impacted by breast cancer (pink being the highest per capita):

A pink ribbon is the most prominent symbol of breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbons, which can be made inexpensively, are sometimes sold as fundraisers, much like poppies on Remembrance Day. They are worn to honor those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The pink ribbon is associated with individual generosity, faith in scientific progress, and a “can-do” attitude.

My female cousin, Larissa Jones, however was not so fortunate. She was fourteen years old when she died, it was excruciatingly heart-breaking to watch someone slip away from a full life ahead of them. Diagnosis came far to late, already at stage three of four, hope seemed dim.

Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer among women (after skin cancer) and the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 20,000 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed this year, and approximately 15,000 women will die from ovarian cancer this year. Ovarian cancer is often called the silent killer because its symptoms can be subtle, leading to a delayed diagnosis and poorer outcome. However, if ovarian cancer is detected early, approximately nine out of ten women will live for at least five years with the disease. While the majority of women who develop ovarian cancer have no known risk factors for the disease, researchers have identified a few factors that increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer. These factors include advancing age, family history and genetics, early onset of menstruation (before age 12) or late menopause (after age 50), having a first child after age 30 or never having children, or having breast cancer. A personal/family history of breast cancer: Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer because many of the risk factors for breast cancer (including early menstruation, late menopause, delayed childbirth, BRCA gene mutations, etc.) also put women at risk for ovarian cancer.

There is no sure-fire method of preventing ovarian cancer. There is also no foolproof screening test to detect ovarian cancer. The best method of defense against ovarian cancer is a yearly pelvic exam beginning at age 18. Physicians perform pelvic exams to check for abnormalities in the size or shape of the uterus, vagina, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum. Many women mistakenly believe that the Pap smear exam screens for ovarian cancer; however, the Pap smear is a screening exam for cervical cancer. The Pap smear may occasionally detect ovarian cancer but usually only after it has progressed to advanced stages.Genetic testing is available to decide whether women carry mutations of the BRCA1 (breast cancer gene 1) or BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2) genes. Mutations of these genes put women at higher risk of developing both ovarian cancer and breast cancer. The decision to undergo genetic testing is a personal one and should be made carefully with input from physicians and family members. Many women also undergo genetic counseling before the test.

So while in your mind, putting off your annual check-up for another day might not phase you, I urge you and plead with you to take it seriously. It IS better to know and deal with it than find out when it’s too late. It’s a few minutes of your time, ONCE a year that could add many more years to your life to spend with those you love and cherish. Let’s not have any regrets about it and educate ourselves. We have one body and one life to live – let’s do it wisely.


It’s Good For All Involved

4 Aug

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is traveling through Africa now, reporting on malnutrition.  Here’s an excerpt:

What if nutritionists came up with a miracle cure for childhood malnutrition? A protein-rich substance that doesn’t require refrigeration? One that is free and is available even in remote towns like this one in Niger where babies routinely die of hunger-related causes? Impossible, you say? Actually, this miracle cure already exists. It’s breast milkWhen we think of global poverty, we sometimes assume that the challenges are so vast that any solutions must be extraordinarily complex and expensive. Well, some are. But almost nothing would do as much to fight starvation around the world as the ultimate low-tech solution: exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life. That’s the strong recommendation of the World Health OrganizationThe paradox is that while this seems so cheap and obvious — virtually instinctive — it’s also rare. Here in Niger, only 9 percent of babies get nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life, according to a 2007 national nutrition survey. At least that’s up from just 1 percent in 1998. (In the United States, about 13 percent of babies are exclusively breast-fed for six months, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Then again, most of the rest get formula, which is pretty safe in America.)… The challenges with breast-feeding in poor countries are not the kinds that Western women face, and many women in the developing world continue nursing their babies for two years. The biggest problem is giving water or animal milk to babies, especially on hot days. Another is that mothers often doubt the value of colostrum, the first milk after childbirth (which is thick and yellowish and doesn’t look much like milk), and delay nursing for a day or two…

This week, August 1-7, is World Breastfeeding Week! What does that mean? It’s a week to promote awareness of global breastfeeding concerns, created by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action(WABA) and celebrated by breastfeeding advocates in more than 170 countries across the world with this years theme being, communication.

Breastfeeding supports each of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)and has a large impact on the future well-being of our society. Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • MDG 1 (hunger and poverty): The first step towards reducing undernutrition of children is optimal exclusive breastfeeding, enabling them to grow well from the first days of life; and continued breastfeeding when complementary foods are introduced, to improve the quality of the mixed diet. This also contributes to reducing household costs particularly in poverty-stricken economies.
  • MDG 3 (gender equality): Children receive an equal star t through breastfeeding regardless of family income. Breastfeeding also empowers women by enabling them to be in control of their reproductive lives and be self sufficient in nourishing their infants (without spending money on breast milk substitutes).
  • MDG 4 (reduce child mortality): If all infants were placed immediately skin-to-skin, breastfed exclusively for six months and then up to two years or longer with age appropriate complementary feeding, under five mortality would be reduced 13-20% worldwide.
  • MDG 5 (maternal health): Mothers’ risk of postpartum hemorrhage is reduced by early initiation of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding also protects against anemia and maternal iron depletion due to lactational amenorrhea, and reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and diabetes. (taken fromhttp://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/pdf/wbw2011-af.pdf)

So while in our simple lives we may think of breast-feeding as a chore that will make our breasts hang lower than the south pole, the truth of the matter is that it can be the cheapest life-saving resource that we have at our disposal, GLOBALLY. If it was your baby, or someone special close to you whose baby needed help, I’m betting you would go out of your way to help, and you can – just spread the word – simply put, breast-feeding is good for all involved.

Oh my word!!!!!!!! What I thought would be a few lines turned out to be one big love fest in a very strange sort of way – a way that should be natural. It makes me smile when I realise that God in His infinite wisdom has given women the natural ability to feed, nourish and care for our children. This post is not about the how to’s but about the stereotyping and strange stigma that comes with it. Please don’t feel bad at all if it’s not for you, as mothers, we have the right to raise our kids the way we see fit so relax, there are many other things we do or don’t do that impact our children’s lives, but hey, we all turned out okay in the end.

I had fun searching the net for information on the subject, you would not believe that amount of photos on the web showing mothers breastfeeding their babies AND toddlers, anywhere and everywhere, even in the middle of a bike ride – how’s that for a pit stop??? Or at events called “The Big Latch On”. I can see why some people would think that those images should be private and it’s probably because breastfeeding in itself has become taboo, while modern society almost dictates that it’s NOT the done thing or too much work – if you take the time to de-sensualise breasts, it then becomes one of the most beautiful sights to behold, a nursing mother and child.

Samuel is now 9 months old and still breastfeeding and I think, rather I know for a fact that I enjoy it more than he does there, I said it! From the moment I knew that I was pregnant, it was never a question whether or not I would breast feed and that feeling became even more intrenched when he refused to latch for the first few days of his life. Yes it was tiring in the beginning when I had to feed every two hours on the dot, especially because he was a summer baby and a thirsty one at that, but now we have our quiet time. At the heart of the matter, I am a person who loves touch, so to look into my baby’s eyes and have his hand stroke mine (or play with my love handles) while I look into his eyes and play with his hair; it’s the purest form of love and touch that I have ever experienced. Visit Breastfeeding Is Beautiful to see what I mean.

The message that I want to pass on to you my readers is that whether you have kids or not or whether they were breastfed or not is irrelevant!!! We can all pass on the message that its good for all involved – besides I am yet to hear a father complain about feeling left out at a 2am feeding session…. I love this feel-good tribute to breastfeeding… enjoy.

The views and opinions of this blog are just that – mine. If by any chance you have taken some offense, I apologise for the offence, not my views.

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