Breast cancer is a disease that has plagued women around the world for many years and has claimed may loved. These are certain things you must know about it.
I had one of the greatest “rude awakenings” last week, when a regular reader of this column, who was off the radar for some time, sent me a Whatsapp text from United States stating “doc, I am in US now, I have breast cancer, and I just had surgery(partial mastectomy) .
The Lady is a Phd holder, although from Anambra, but resides in Kaduna. On further communications she requested that I refresh my readers’ memories, by discussing breast cancer again.
Yes, I have discussed breast cancer ad nauseam, but the Anambra/Kaduna woman made a hospital request, which must be obeyed on compassionate grounds. Her grief being what she was told in the US, that if her breast lumps were discovered earlier, she wouldn’t have lost any part of her breast.
Yes, let me repeat, breast cancer accounts for 20% of all cancer in women. At Gregory University Uturu, Abia State, which is gradually turning into an institution of high repute, an enlightenment class has just been introduced for every female.
At the confines of your room or hostel, at least once every 6 months, examine and palpate your breasts, and if you notice any lump, please consult your Doctor. We do not want to lose any female through breast cancer. Please let us err on the side of caution.
What are the essential summary for breast cancer?
Risk Factors :
• 1) Women – most women with breast cancer do not have identifiable risk factors.
• 2) Age – Over 60% of breast cancer occurs in women above 50.
• 3) Previous breast cancer – Highest risk are women who have had in-situ, invasive or lump which was removed.
• 4) Delayed childbearing – women who start their reproductive life late, say from 35 years above are at risk of breast cancer.
• 5) Family history – If a first-degree-relative like mother, sister or daughter had cancer, it increases the risk of their siblings developing breast cancer two to three folds.
• 6) Breast cancer gene – Recently two separate genes for breast cancer have been identified by Scientists – BRACA1 & BRACA2. If a woman has one of these genes her chances of developing breast cancer is very high.
• 7) Previous non-cancerous breast disease – Having had non-cancerous breast disease seems to increase risk of breast cancer, only in women who have an increased number of milk-ducts.
• 8) First menstruation before age 12 – Menopause after age 55. First pregnancy after age 30 or no pregnancies – all these 3 predispose to increased risk of breast cancer.
• 9) Oral contraceptives – Prolonged use of oral contraceptives or oestrogen replacement therapy increases the risk of breast cancer.
• 10) Obesity after menopause – seem to increase the risk of breast cancer. But some studies suggest that obese women who are still menstruating actually are less likely to develop breast cancer.
Symptoms that may indicate breast cancer
These symptoms don’t necessarily mean that a woman has breast cancer, however if a woman has them, she should see her doctor.
a) Swelling that doesn’t go away.
b) Puckering or dimpling.
c) Scaly skin around the nipple.
d) Changes in the shape of the breast.
e) Changes in the nipple, such as turning inwards.
f) Discharge from the nipple, especially if bloody.
How do we diagnose breast cancer?
1) When a lump that could be cancerous is found, a biopsy is performed – by removing some cells from the lump through a needle attached to a syringe – aspiration biopsy.
2) Or by removing a small piece of the tissue – incisional biopsy.
3) Or by removing the entire lump – excisional biopsy.
Most women don’t need to be hospitalised, and usually only local anaesthetics are needed.
4) Mammography, Ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI) are other diagnostic procedures.
Prevention of breast cancer.
Women may reduce the risk of breast cancer by:
1) Maintaining a healthy weight.
2) Drinking less alcohol.
3) Being physically active.
4) Breastfeeding their children.
God who created breasts for suckling our children, did not permit that, it should also be a source of agony for our female folks. Be medically guided.