Source: The Herald
Seated on the edge of the bed, Sarudzai smiled faintly looking luminously grateful at her husband. "I could have died if it were not for you," said Sarudzai, leaning her head sideways and holding back tears in her eyes.

It happened that one day around daybreak as Sarudzai and her husband were lying in bed, he fondled her left breast and felt an unusual lump inside.

The first thing that came to Sarudzai's mind was a boil (mota), which is a painful skin infection that usually starts as a flushed and sore area and becomes stiff and hard.

However, her husband urged her to visit the doctor and the cancer was detected early.
Education, early detection and treatment can improve the quality of life for women and reduce unnecessary deaths from breast and other cancers.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women in Zimbabwe with the National Cancer Registry saying about 7 000 women in the country were diagnosed with the disease annually.

Statistics show that an estimated one in eight women will have breast cancer in their lifetime.

There are many factors that cause breast cancer such as family heredity, obesity, excessive drinking of alcohol and lack of exercise.
At least 80 percent of Zimbabwean women are not aware that they should be screened and cannot begin to decipher the gravity of the risk they face.

Breast cancer is treated in several ways depending on the type and the extent to which it would have spread.
Treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biologic therapy, and radiation with those with breast cancer often getting more than one type of treatment.

Speaking while officially opening the breast cancer clinic and state of the art mammogram screening equipment at Parirenyatwa Hospital in October last year, Vice President Joyce Mujuru said deaths caused by cancer-related illnesses were unacceptably high because people presented themselves late for diagnosis and treatment.

"This is as a result of a multitude of factors chief among which is the general lack of awareness and poor health seeking behaviour among our people irrespective of level of education and socio-economic status of the individual," she said.

She said Government would work to cut the costs of breast cancer screening so that it becomes affordable to all Zimbabwean women.
There was also need, she said, to ensure easy access to drugs and other services for cancer treatment so that the burden could be tackled.

"To this end, radiotherapy facilities and chemotherapy drugs must be availed at affordable prices, otherwise the benefits of early detection of breast cancer cannot be realised," said VP Mujuru.

A mammogram is an X-ray image of the breast used to screen for breast cancer.

Mammograms play a key role in early breast cancer detection and help decrease breast cancer deaths.
The World Health Organisation has reported a cancer age standardised mortality rate of 122 per 100 00 population, for both sexes reported in 2004, whilst the International Atomic Energy Agency highlighted that Zimbabwe sees 7 000 new cases each year.

Only a fraction of these, some 1 300 to 2 000, is treated with radiotherapy.

The Zimbabwe Cancer Registry 2005 report said 60 percent of cancers reported in Zimbabwe were HIV-related.
Cancer Association of Zimbabwe knowledge manager Tafadzwa Chigariro said they would expand awareness on breast cancer this year, especially in rural areas.
Chigariro said at the moment the association was sourcing for funding to increase awareness about breast cancer around the country.

"At the moment we are educating people in churches, schools and conferences.

He urged people to have breast examination regularly as this gives early detection.

"Cancer treatment is very expensive and people must be examined regularly.

Most cancers, including breast can be treated if people recognised the signs and sought treatment early while women should go for check-ups every six months.

Treatment for advanced cancer including doctors' fees, surgery costs and treatment cycle cost is estimated between US$4 000 and US$5 000 in private hospitals, meaning that the majority of Zimbabwean women will not even try it, thereby increasing deaths caused by breast cancer.

If only women took care and checked their breasts regularly, the cancer could be detected early, increasing chances not only of treating it, but also of preserving the affected breast.

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