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15 Oct 2020

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month in South Africa, when the nation stands united in raising awareness of this debilitating disease.

Apart from supporting this much-needed annual campaign, Slumberland this year also wants to specifically support the survivors. Those strong, awe-inspiring and incredibly brave individuals who are living with the disease daily, or who have fought the disease and achieved remission.

Approximately 19.4 million South African women are at-risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer – the cancer affecting women in South Africa the most.

While it is true that the risk for breast cancer increases as women grow older, the disease also affects women under the age of 40. In fact both men and women are at risk, and in particular women with a family history of breast cancer.

Other factors that can increase the risk of contracting breast cancer include being overweight, being inactive, consuming alcohol, poor dietary habits, smoking and exposure to chemicals.

The early detection of breast cancer can be vital, as it is easier to successfully treat the disease when it is small and has not spread. Early detection offers an increased number of available treatment options, improved quality of life and increases the chances of survival.

Having a Mammogram, a low-dose x-ray of the breast, is one of the most effective screening tests to assist with early detection of the disease. It is recommended that women aged 45 to 54 should get mammograms annually.

Apart from screening for early detection of breast cancer, diet and proper sleep also plays a significant role in prevention of cancer or alleviating symptoms if you are a survivor.

Studies in the USA have also confirmed that sleep problems are very common in breast cancer, pre-treatment, during treatment and sometimes for years after treatment.

In a study of cancer survivors, 19% reported chronic insomnia, with 95% of them experiencing the insomnia for more than 6 months. When sleep was correlated with other symptoms, it was most often associated with complaints of fatigue or anxiety.

This is hardly surprising as survivors may often try to pick up their lives where they left off, despite the fact that their physical strength and emotional balance might not be what it used to be. The constant fear of the cancer recurring can also create tremendous anxiety and, combined with the physical exhaustion, can lead to disturbed sleeping patterns.

Getting proper sleep is therefore crucial in maintaining physical and emotional health while living as a cancer survivor, to rise and conquer every day.

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