Ref: CHB/HB/027/15                                      



The Africa Federation Health Board (CHB) in collaboration with the Africa Federation Women’s Board (AFWB) wishes to raise Awareness and Encourage women fraternity in our community and to use effectively the ‘International Women’s Day’ to reflect on progress made in Women’s Health Awareness in our community, and to call for change in the way women perceive their Health and the importance of timely precautions and better care. Women must enjoy good health, with good health there shall be pleasant, enjoyable and good progress in the families and in the society we live in.

The recent known cases of breast cancer in our community are on increase and many cases are detected when it has reached advance stage. To reduce breast and cervical cancer morbidity and mortality, cancer care needs to a comprehensive program that provides a continuum of care to women.

The CHB and the AFWB urges all Jamaats under AFED to take up this matter seriously and organize annually or more routinely screening for cervical and breast cancer for women.
We have noted women with cervical and breast cancer faces an uphill battle to treatment when it is dictated at advance stage. Besides stressful suffering, there comes substantial cost with the treatment and medications.  
Therefore, it is our appeal to all Jamaats to organize the ‘Cervical and Breast Cancer’ education and screening from 1st March to 15th March, 2015 in the Jamaats, where assistance are needed (including funding), they should contact the CHB and AFWB at earliest possible.
Following is a brief article to bring about Awareness in our community so that there is better understanding of the consequences of failing to carry out breast “Self-Examination” and “Routine Check-up” by women for breast and cervical cancers. “Precaution is always better than Cure”.


What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells. To better understand breast cancer, it helps to understand how any cancer can develop.

Cancer occurs as a result of mutations, or abnormal changes, in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy. The genes are in each cell’s nucleus, which acts as the “control room” of each cell. Normally, the cells in our bodies replace themselves through an orderly process of cell growth: healthy new cells take over as old ones die out. But over time, mutations can “turn on” certain genes and “turn off” others in a cell. That changed cell gains the ability to keep dividing without control or order, producing more cells just like it and forming a tumor.

A tumor can be benign (not dangerous to health) or malignant (has the potential to be dangerous). Benign tumors are not considered cancerous: their cells are close to normal in appearance, they grow slowly, and they do not invade nearby tissues or spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are cancerous. When left unchecked, malignant cells eventually can spread beyond the original tumor to other parts of the body.

The term “Breast Cancer” refers to a malignant tumor that has developed from cells in the breast:

Usually breast cancer either begins in the cells of the lobules, which are the milk-producing glands, or the ducts, the passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple. Less commonly, breast cancer can begin in the stromal tissues, which include the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast.

Importance of early Detection:

The goal of screening exams for breast cancer is to find cancers before they start to cause symptoms (like a lump that can be felt).

Breast cancers that are found because they are causing symptoms tend to be larger and are more likely to have already spread beyond the breast. In contrast, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis (outlook) of a woman with this disease. Most doctors are convinced that early detection tests for breast cancer save thousands of lives each year. There are a number of detections and clinical tests which may be carried out upon doctor’s advice, depending upon condition of a person, they are: 

  1. Mammograms
  2. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast
  3. Nipple discharge exam
  4. Ductal lavage and nipple aspiration
  5. Biopsy
  6. Fine needle aspiration biopsy 
  7. Core needle biopsy
  8. Surgical (open) biopsy
  9. Lymph node biopsy

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A mass that is painless, hard, and has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded. They can even be painful. For this reason, it is important to have any new breast mass or lump, or breast change checked by a health care professional experienced in diagnosing breast diseases.

Other possible signs of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk

Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast tissue is large enough to be felt.

Although any of these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, if you have them, they should be reported to your doctor so that he or she can find the cause.

Methods of Self Examination:
A breast self-examination (BSE) is a technique which allows an individual to examine his/her breast tissue for any physical or visual changes. It is often used as an early detection method for breast cancer. Both men and women should perform a BSE at least once each month beginning at age 18.
Breast Self-Exam Tips: 

  1. Do your BSE at the end of your monthly period.
  2. If you are pregnant, no longer have periods or your period is irregular, choose a specific day each month.
  3. This should not be performed in the shower or with lotion on your skin or fingers.
  4. If you find a lump or notice other unusual changes, don’t panic. About 80% of lumps found are not cancerous. See your doctor promptly for further evaluation.

How to do a Breast Self-Exam (BSE):

1. Check the OUTER HALF of your right breast.

Lie down and roll on to your left side to examine your right breast. Place your right hand, palm up on your forehead. Your breast should lie as flat on your chest as possible. It may be easier and more comfortable if you put a pillow behind your shoulder or back.

2. Using the flat pads of your three middle fingers—not the tips—move the pads of your fingers in little circles, about the size of a dime. 

For each little circle, change the amount of pressure so you can feel ALL levels of your breast tissue. Make each circle three times—once light, once medium, and once deep—before you move on to the next area.

3. Start the circles in your armpit and move down to just below the bra line.

Then slide your fingers over—just the width of one finger and move up again. Don’t lift your fingers from your breast as you move them to make sure you feel the entire area. Continue this up-and-down vertical strip pattern—from your collarbone to just below your bra line—until you reach the nipple.

4. Check the INNER HALF of your right breast. 

When you reach the nipple, remove pillow roll on to your back, remove your hand from your forehead and place this arm at a right angle. Carefully check the nipple area using the same circular pressures as before, without squeezing. Then examine the remaining breast tissue using the up-and-down vertical strip pattern, until you reach the middle of your chest.

5. Roll on to your right side and repeat these steps on your left breast, using your right hand.


Please visit the following websites to learn more about SBE.

It is strongly advised for a woman with a positive history of breast cancer to consult her doctor for the screening (mammorgram and clinical breast exam) apart from doing the SBE only at home, early detection of cancer is curable.
For more details on breast cancer, please visit the following website.

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