Actress and musician Mbali Mapumulo has shown when she fought cancer twice. Picture: File
It may take courage and strength to fight cancer, something that actress and musician Mbali Maphumulo has shown when she fought cancer twice.

She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001.  

“It all started when I felt pain when breathing in and out and it went on to start itching on my breast, even after an appointment with the doctor. The itching didn’t stop and instead my breast formed pimples and discoloration. 

"That’s when I knew something a lot serious was going on and it was deep in my breast.  I then asked for a biopsy and that is when the doctor discovered I had breast cancer,” said Maphumulo.

She went into remission, but the cancer returned in 2005.

Fortunately, Maphumulo says she was prepared by her doctor that it is likely that once I have had it before, it could happen again. 

“Mentally, I prepared myself. I was definitely better equipped for the situation if it ever came back, and it did.”

“My strong character also really helped me. I'm a very strong person in general and always take the bull by the horns at all times in life. Resilience is key in situations like this because it is not just a physical battle; It is an emotional and mental battle that I was determined to win.” said the actress.

She had double breast removal, but admits that she had her daily struggles.
“Having to adjust to my new reality, appearance and also having to overcome the thoughts of what if it comes back again?. 

“But since it has happened, I have chosen to focus on my blessings, and being grateful that I am alive to see my children grow” she added. 

“To anyone going through what I went through, I advise that they keep the optimism and the strength. I chose strength. I chose to share my story to inspire the next person going through what I am going through.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, an initiative to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of breast cancer through education on symptoms and treatment.

Maphumelo life story is all about raising awareness, she is part of Jet, in collaboration with the Breast Health Foundation have campaign #ClearTheStigma which is aimed at raising awareness around the disease that affects 1 in 28 women in South Africa. 

Dr Aadilah Jogee from the Breast Health Foundation, first, it is important to note that breast cancer treatment is not a standard recipe, rather it is personalised to each patient.

However, Jogee says all patients who have breast surgery should have the opportunity to have reconstruction. This can be done at the same time as a mastectomy/lumpectomy or afterwards. 

“As a patient, you should discuss reconstruction with your doctors before any breast surgery is performed. The most common reconstructive techniques involve using the woman’s own tissue to rebuild the breast or having an implant,” adds Jongee. 

He also explains that the goal of reconstructive surgery is to obtain symmetry for the breasts; therefore, this can involve surgery to the other breast too, in the form of reduction, augmentation, mastopexy or prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction. “Even breast conserving procedures can be done so as to achieve the best cosmetic result.”

He says that it’s important to note that some are not interested in reconstruction and are happy to get a mastectomy bra. This is a bra with an insert so that over clothes no one would notice the difference.

Many women tend to do a double mastectomy to try and avoid cancer returning. 

But Jongee says some women do get breast cancer after a mastectomy, sometimes at the site of the scar or the original cancer may have spread. 

“For women at high risk of breast cancer who have their breasts removed as a prophylactic or preventive measure, there's still a chance, though a small one, that they can get breast cancer. After prophylactic mastectomy a woman's risk for developing breast cancer is reduced by an average of 90%.”
If you or a family member have breast cancer, there is hope. But experts say early detection is key.