Living with breast cancer

    • Brief

    • Most women are more scared of breast cancer than any other form of cancer. It is one of the most common forms of cancer to affect them. It can affect men too, but it is rare.

      Breast cancer occurs body cells behave abnormally and grow uncontrolled. In breast cancer, they form a mass that feels like a hard stone or lump (tumour) in one or both breasts. The cause of this abnormal growth in the breast is not known, but it is clear that the body’s defence system has failed to attack this growth.

      Breast cancer can remain undetected for long periods but may develop into a life-threatening condition. Due to improved medical practice, women can live long lives when they seek treatment for their breast cancer. In Nigeria, people often tend to find out very late that they have breast cancer, which reduces the options available for their treatment.

    • When you get the diagnosis

    • Hearing that you have breast cancer can seem like there is imminent death. That isn't always the case, especially if you get your diagnosis early.

      Get enough information about breast cancer. Your healthcare provider will be your primary source of information. Read books, newspaper publications or online information about breast cancer, or listen to the radio on topics like this.

      As a caregiver, you should read about breast cancer and provide support for the person with breast cancer. Assist them with healthcare appointments and be present even at their support group meetings.

    • Work and your health

    • Your condition may affect your ability to work. Speak with your work colleagues or superior, giving them only the information required.

      Either take enough time off work for your recovery or request it from your workplace. You won't be able to do much until you feel good enough to work again.

      Plan activities and learn techniques that will help you cope with work stress. Stress can reduce your quality of life and worsen how you feel pain.

    • Diet and nutrition

    • Ensure that you eat a healthy, balanced diet to help your body cope with the treatments and discomfort of the disease itself. Drink lots of fluids to remain hydrated.

      There are no diets or supplements that have been shown to help with breast cancer. Speak with your healthcare provider if you are considering adopting a special diet.

    • Physical activity

    • Remain physically active. You can incorporate some physical activity with your treatment to ensure your body retains strength during treatment. Exercise can also help lift your mood.

    • Support from family and community

    • Join a support group. For anyone with cancer, having a support group helps you to live better and to continue with treatment.  If you do not find a community in your area, ask your healthcare provider about active support groups.

      Your healthcare provider will counsel you from the beginning of the diagnosis to the end of the phase. They may recommend that you join counselling sessions to assist your mental wellbeing.

    • Financial impact

    • Treatment for breast cancer is expensive if you have to pay out of pocket. Medicines, surgery or prosthetics may be expensive.

      If you have health insurance, speak with your healthcare provider to understand what is covered under your plan and what you may need to save towards.

    • Kulawa cares

    • Breast cancer can be successfully treated if caught early. Knowing how to spot the signs of this disease is important in identifying it in time.

      In many cases, breast cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage in Nigeria. This reduces the options available for many women.  You can make a difference by reaching out to your friends and family, educating them of their risks and linking them with a healthcare provider that can screen them.

      After your diagnosis, you can be overwhelmed by all the sudden changes in your life. You can work with a counsellor to get your priorities right while managing your stress. You will also need a network of family and friends to support you. Ask for help and support when you need it.