Breast cancer: Self-testing can lead to early detection

People queuing for breast cancer screening organized by Oshen King Faisal Hospital during car free day at RRA parking. / Nadege Imbabazi

As part of the event to mark the ongoing Breast Cancer Awareness Month, hundreds of Kigali City residents who participated in yesterday’s Car Free Day underwent screening for breast cancer, in a mass exercise organised by Oshen King Faisal Hospital.

The screening took place in the parking area of Rwanda Revenue Authority.


Speaking at the event, Dr Emmy Agabe Nkusi, the Deputy CEO of Oshen King Faisal, said that based on the fact that breast cancer is among the top killers, it is important that everyone get to know their status and get timely treatment. 


“Breast cancer contributes a lot to deaths in mostly women but men can get it too.  Actually, it can be worse for men because they have a small amount of breast tissue which makes the cancer easier to spread to surrounding tissues and the rest of the body,” he said.


Nkusi added that one of the most critical determinants of a cancer patient’s successful treatment is how early they start on medication.

Unfortunately, many patients go to hospital with the cancer already at an advanced stage which not only leads to high cost of treatment but also makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to treat.

According to 2017 statistics from Rwanda Biomedical Centre, breast cancer was the second leading cause of death in women, after cervical cancer.

Annually, there are about 550 cases of breast cancer patients who seek treatment.

Meanwhile, there are three treatment options for cancer in the country, which include surgery to remove the tumor, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

In most cases, it requires a combination of these three modalities to ensure comprehensive treatment.

When The New Times got to the screening site yesterday morning, over 100 men and women had turned up to know their status.

Call for self-testing

Clarisse Ngirababyeyi, a 36-year-old Kacyiru resident, tested negative but she was so thrilled to know her status and learn how she can do self-testing at home.

“Cancer does not discriminate and that is why I jumped on this opportunity to know my status. Also when I get home I will start doing self-testing because I was taught how to do it,” she said.

Josephine Murekezi, a nurse at Oshen- King Faisal, said that for early detection, both women and men should be able to self-test for breast cancer and immediately seek medical support if they notice something unusual.

“Some of the symptoms of breast cancer include change in size or shape, a lump ( area that feels thicker than the rest of the breast), redness or rash on the skin and/or around the nipple, liquid that comes from the nipple without squeezing and pain in your breast, your armpit among other signs,” she said.

How to self-test for breast cancer

There are different ways people can use to self-examine their breasts.

In the mirror

Stand straight in front of the mirror and visualise the breast by checking the size, colour and shape to see if there are any changes. Feel for changes in the breast. It helps to have your hands slippery with soap and water.

Check for any lumps or thickening in your underarm area. Place your left hand on your hip and reach with your right hand to feel in the left armpit. Do the same on the other.

Lying down

Lie down and place a small pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder. Put your right hand behind your head. Place your left hand on the upper portion of your right breast with fingers together and flat.  Body lotion may help to make this easier.

In the shower

With hands soapy, raise one arm behind your head to spread out the breast tissue. Use the flat part of your fingers from the other hand to press gently into the breast. Follow an up-and-down pattern, moving from bra line to collarbone. Continue the pattern until you have covered the entire breast. Repeat on the other side.

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