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Thursday, January 14, 2016 - 03:16
Better diagnosis

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, every nineteen seconds someone in the world is diagnosed with breast cancer. Although this is a large number, it is through awareness campaigns, improved education and the broadening access to preventative healthcare services that many regions are expecting to see a decrease in breast cancer incidents, and more individuals opting to take preventative measures to mitigate cancer risks.
According to Principal Officer and CEO at Profmed Graham Anderson, at present it is not as simple as analysing statistics to understand the trends, as there are various factors that impact on these figures. “Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women in South Africa, with the World Health Organisation 2014 Cancer Country Profile revealing nearly 10 000 recorded incidents among women in the country during that year,” he says. On a global scale, 2013 statistics from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) indicated a significant 20% rise in breast cancer incidents among women internationally between 2008 and 2012, with 1.7 million women diagnosed in 2012. 
“However, it is important to note that while diagnoses are on the rise, this is not an indication that breast cancer is becoming more prevalent, rather that more and more individuals are gaining access to healthcare, thus many more are diagnosed who may never have been aware of their condition previously,” Anderson explains. “In fact, the innovation in and widening availability of preventative and curative treatments for breast cancer are likely to have had a significant impact on reducing either development of the disease and its number of fatalities, although this is not reflected in current statistics.”
Anderson goes on to explain the key role that education has played in the increasing prevention of breast cancer. “Although genetics are a primary factor in the occurrence of breast cancer, the fact that lifestyle habits can impact on the risk of developing cancer has begun to receive far more widespread acknowledgement among today’s more health-conscious society – spreading the message that often, prevention is better than cure.” Anderson says that avoidable lifestyle-based circumstances such as obesity, lack of exercises, poor diet, tobacco use and high levels of alcohol consumption could all be contributing factors which increase your risk of developing cancer. By opting for a cleaner, healthier lifestyle, is possible to reduce your individual risk factors.
“In addition to lifestyle changes, many women who have been shown to carry the BRCA1 gene, which significantly increases their risk of developing breast cancer, now opt to undergo either a lumpectomy, or a single or double mastectomy based on their case, as a means to considerably reduce this risk,” says Anderson. “While this type of invasive procedure can be a very difficult choice, many women who choose this course of action due to a genetic predisposition (a history of breast cancer in their immediate family) to breast cancer have successfully avoided its development.”
“Most medical schemes offer preventative healthcare as a benefit option, which includes annual screenings as a means to detect malignant cells earlier,” adds Anderson. “Encouraging numbers of women who are able to detect and treat breast cancer early experience positive results, with a strong survival rate. That being said, in spite of the massive advancements made, breast cancer is still one the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among women. We therefore need to encourage South Africans to change their lifestyles and make use of preventative measures in order to reduce the risk of developing cancer,” Anderson concludes.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:29.1 1st January, 2016
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