On the occasion of breast cancer awareness month in October, Dr Raja Aghzadi, Moroccan breast surgeon and oncologist, talks about the importance of early detection. She also stresses the need for a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent this disease.
Are we witnessing an increase of breast cancer patients?
We are facing an ascending curve. Today, breast cancer has become an epidemic. From experience, it seems that women with breast cancer are younger in Africa than in the West. In industrialized countries, screening starts from the age of 55. In Africa, we should start earlier from the age of 40. Studies must be done to find out the factors that explain this particularity in Africa: is it a genetic question? Could it be linked to the climate, to the way of life? These questions still remain unanswered today.
With all the medical advances, can we prevent breast cancer today?
If we knew all the risk factors, we could avoid them. Except that this is not the case. Among the factors of presumption, we find fatty and sweet food. The way of life is also considered as responsible for breast cancer, that is to say whether or not a woman is sedentary. The other factor is stress which, through certain secretions, can induce cancer. Taking hormones in an uncontrolled manner, particularly for certain women at risk, is also incriminated. A final factor is linked to the hereditary history, which applies to 5 to 10% of cases.
At what age should a woman start to be tested?
There is no one rule that can be applied to all women. It all depends on family status and the type of breast. We can distinguish breasts that are denser than others, that is to say, more glandular. A woman whose mother, aunt or cousin has developed breast cancer needs to get tested much earlier. Usually, it is around 40 years old that you start to examine and get to know your breast. Breasts at risk should be watched closely … It is recommended from the age of 40 or even before, to start doing breast self-examination once a month. This self-examination allows women to find up to 70% of the anomalies. Radiological screening can be done every 1 to 3 years, depending on the type of breast and family status.
What are the signs to take into consideration?
The best thing to do is not to get into the signs, because by then, it is a bit late. That is why doing an annual check-up is really important. Mammography can find barely millimeter-size lesions. In cases of early detection, the prognosis is good in almost 100% of cases. Women believe that they have to feel something first before seeing the doctor. However, it is better to do the check-up and x-ray examination regularly. Sometimes it is the courage that they lack to to the test.
Does Morocco have what it takes to treat breast cancer?
In Morocco, we have the possibility to treat breast cancer according to the best standards in the world. We use the most advanced devices and molecules. Likewise, it is possible to keep the breast by combining both cancer and cosmetic surgeries. It consists of reconstructing a breast and giving it the most anatomical shape and curvature.
Is this treatment accessible to all women?
This is the question we are currently working on in Morocco. We would like to have fairness and fewer disparities. Access to care should be easier to all people with breast cancer. In this context, Cœur de femmes association, which was founded 20 years ago, travels to the most remote regions of Morocco to inform, educate and consult these people. We operate them on site and provide them with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Since the disease has no borders, several countries in sub-Saharan Africa have also been visited in the same context.
What about breast cancer treatment during Covid-19 pandemic?
With Covid-19, there was a decline in consultations. At first, it was not a priority. But after lockdown, People began to resume their consultations and examine their bodies. But, we have noted delays. We have recorded cases of women who have reached advanced stages.ame fight.
What message do you want to send to women around the globe ?
I call on all women on the continent to realize the importance of health because it is the only real capital anchored in time and space. They should also choose a healthy lifestyle to prevent breast cancer.