Can my breast, when severed, grow again?

There was wild amusement among a crowd of about 500, mainly students, when an anxious teacher-trainee asked if her breast could grow a replacement when severed because of breast cancer.

She had just been educated on the need for regular breast examination for women and men to ensure early detection and cure of breast cancer, and told that in the advanced case of the disease, the affected breast will have to be severed.

Of course it cannot grow back, and Dr. Beatrice Wiafe Addai, a general surgeon and breast pathology specialist who is also President of Breast Care International, whose non-governmental organization was at Assin Foso in the Central Region Sunday to screen residents for the killer disease, described the question as funny yet serious.

“It is funny because this is the first time I am hearing such a question and particularly from a student, but it is very serious because it underlines the level of ignorance in our society and for which reason we need to intensify education of the populace and get everybody on board,” she told in an interview.

The breast screening exercise was the initiative of Dolly Foundation, an NGO at Assin Foso dedicated to educating the townsfolk on health, women and child rights issues.

Majority of the candidates for screening were pleasantly surprised to learn that breast cancer is largely curable, and that it is man’s own ignorance and the lack of education that lead to its devastative effects.

Dr. Beatrice Wiafe Addai said breast cancer is about 95 percent curable, but only when it is detected early and treated, hence the need for regular examination.

She also dispelled many notions about the condition, including claims that death is only a matter of days away to have one’s cancerous breast severed, saying there are many survivors of the operation to render that claim a falsehood. It is also not a disease for the poor or rich, as many people tend to associate it with status. Again, any abscess could be mistaken for breast cancer and create unnecessary fear and it is only professional care that will tell if a condition is a cancer or not.

According to Dr. Beatrice Wiafe Addai, while the mortality rate of people diagnosed with breast cancer in the developed world is fast decreasing as a result of early screening measures, the rate in the developing world is rather high because of the lack of screening and education. Breast cancer is also more prevalent among blacks than it is among whites, she said.

She advised women to regularly do self examination of the breast for unusual lumps and report to specialists immediately they realize any. But beyond self examination, persons from 40 years and above need to undertake a thorough examination (baseline mammogram) to be sure of their condition.