We must change the way we diagnose breast cancer

Breast cancer cases are rising in Africa, but with proper diagnosis there can be an improvement.

Photo credit: Fotosearch

Breast cancer cases are rising in Africa.

It is the most frequent cancer among women, according to the World Health Organization. In 2018, it is estimated that 627,000 women died from breast cancer.

If breast cancer is detected early, there are more treatment options and a better chance for survival. It is, therefore, important to ensure a timely and accurate diagnosis.

The diagnosis of breast cancer is a multi-disciplinary endeavour and involves experts in radiology and pathology.

The treatment of confirmed breast cancer also involves a number of expert consultants. It requires the input of an experienced breast surgeon, a medical oncologist who will administer systemic therapy, and the radiation therapist who may ultimately need to administer radiation.

A multi-disciplinary approach involving all three specialists seeing the patient and reviewing the case at the same time has been shown to provide optimal management of breast cancer. This is critical since many patients may qualify for breast conserving surgery if their tumours could be shrunk by giving chemotherapy before surgery.

The concept of a multi-disciplinary approach is new to Kenya, but has become standard practice at most major cancer centres in Europe and North America. It is imperative that women are given options and choices in advance.

The Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, embarked on this best practice by launching the Multi-Disciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic last month. Held once a week, the clinic is for those women diagnosed with breast cancer and awaiting a treatment plan for the optimal management of their condition.

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