Don’t panic, says Lillian

Gillian McAinsh

BREAST cancer survivor Lillian Dube cautions South African women from rushing out to emulate actress Angelina Jolie’s preventive double mastectomy. In an interview with The Herald, the television soap opera actress said education and awareness were vital but going for surgery to remove both breasts to ward off the possibility of breast cancer was a major step.

“Just because Angelina did that, it doesn’t mean everyone must panic and rush off to do the same. It’s about early diagnosis and then early treatment – and that means mammograms and ultrasounds,” said Dube.

“I would not advise everyone to go cutting their breasts because they might have breast cancer. I am not sure if I would recommend this, although Angelina has made an informed choice,” said Dube.

She quoted specialist surgeon Dr Carol-Ann Benn, who notes 60% of women who present with breast cancer do not even have a history of the disease.

Dube herself was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago and underwent surgery in 2008.

She had four courses of chemotherapy, 35 days of radiation and a lumpectomy – less invasive than a mastectomy in which the whole breast in removed.

“As I am sitting here talking to you, I don’t have a nipple on one side,” she said with a boisterous chuckle.

“But I am loving life. I first thank God and then it is down to education, education, education.”

Dube, who turns 68 in September, has oodles of energy after her successful treatment.

Perhaps best known for her portrayal of Sister Bettina in Soul City and her role in the theatre production, Curl Up & Dye, she is still active on South African television screens, appearing in My Perfect Family on a Monday and Mponeng on a Tuesday.

She squeezed in The Herald’s interview before setting off to film her new role in the popular soap opera Muvhango.

Dube is also an integral part of the Cancervive – pronounced “can survive” – campaign, said spokesman Frieda Henning.

“We do education on the signs of the ‘shy’ cancers such as breast, cervical, colorectal, ovarian, prostate and testicular,” said Henning. “During the last two years we have seen more than 50000 people face to face, mainly in rural areas throughout South Africa.”

Dube is also a member of Bosom Buddies which is another breast cancer support group and founded a breast health foundation in Lesotho.

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