Is it any wonder that we still have a lot of educated illiterates especially those of the female gender who have little or no knowledge about the deadly disease known as *Breast cancer*? So the need for awareness is very paramount. We are in the month october; known as National Breast cancer awareness month. So breast cancer awareness seems to be at peak.
Breast cancer awareness is aimed at supporting and comforting the women diagnosed with breast cancer as well as educate those without it to abstain from it’s causes. It has given people more information about the disease and also help women get rid of social stigma associated with it by encouraging others to show love and care to the victims. The pink ribbon is the most prominent symbol of breast cancer awareness. It is associated with individual generosity, faith in scientific progress and a “can do attitude”.
Before the 20th century, breast cancer was feared and discussed in hushed tones, as if it were shameful. Most suffering from this disease are too petrified to speak. Women tend to suffer silently rather than seeking care. However, at recent time, the persitent effort of the community at large has helped raise awareness about breast cancer. Women have become more open about sharing their views on the disease. Awareness campaign, programs and activities have provided emotional supports and shared information on the disease. It has greatly encouraged women, giving them the strength to face the challenges of the disease and reach out for help.
*What is BREAST CANCER*?
Breast cancer is a cancer that develops from breast tissue. Cells become cancerous when they lose their ability to stop dividing, attach to other cells, stay where they belong, and die at the proper time. Normal cells are know to commit cell suicide when they are no longer needed. Abnormal cells cluster to form a tumoror lump. A tumor becomes cancerous when these abnormal cells invade other part of the breast or when they spread (metastasize) to other arears of the body through bloodstream, or lymphatic system; a network of vessels and nodes in the body that plays a role in fighting infection.
According to research, Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. 12% of women worldwide suffers from breast cancer. It is known that one in eight women in the united states will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. The deadly menace of breast cancer has eaten deep like a canker worm into the fabrics of the Nigerian society. Encouragingly, the death rate from breast cancer has declined a bit in recent years perhaps due to greater awareness and screening as well as better treatment.
The primary risk factor of breast cancer are females and older age. However,this deadly disease in not only peculiar to females but can also occur in men, an overweight or obese person, postmenopausal women (starting menopause after age 55), alcohol addicts, girls with ealy menstruation (starting before age 12). Breast cancer can be hereditary( 5-10% cases) i.e inherited from parents. Yes, men can get breast cancer too. Male breast cancer is rare but anyone with breast tissue can develop breast cancer. Since men have less breast tissue, so have less breast cancer. But if there’s a strong family history of breast cancer, a man might consider having genetic testing to see if he has mutation might increase his risk for male breast cancer.
*SIGNS OF BREAST CANCER*
Breast cancer symptoms vary from one person to the next. Knowing what your breast normally look and feel like may help you recognise possible signs and symptoms.
The signs of breast cancer include:
– A lump in the breast or armpit (1st noticeable symptom). 80% of breast cancer cases are discoveredwhen the woman feels a lump around the collar bone or beneath the armpits.
– bloody nipple discharge
– a change in the size and shape of the breast or nipple.
– inverted nipple
– orange-peel texture or dimpling of the breast’s skin
– breast pain or sore nipple
– swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpit
– unexplained weight loss and hair loss can occasionally signal breast cancer
Symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to the symptoms in women, with the most common symptom being a lump or change in the skin of the breast tissue or nipple discharge. Although it can occur at any age, male breast cancer usually occurs in men over 60 years of age.
Note that breast cancer can also be symptom-free. Pain is an unreliable tool in determining the presence or absence of breast cancer which makes following national screening of recommendation an important practice.
*CAUSES OF BREAST CANCER*
The causes of breast cancer are not yet fully known, although a number of risk factors have been identified. They include:
* lack of child bearing or lack of breast feeding.
* higher levels of certain hormones e.g oestrogen hormone.
* exposure to light pollution i.e radiations
* drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco increase the risk of breast cancer.
* hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome
* diabetes might also increase the risk of breast cancer.
This is a process by which medical professionals diagnose breast cancer during a physical exam which includes a self breast exam, mammography, genetic screening, ultrasound testing and biopsy.
Self breast exam involves feeling breast for lump or other abnormalities. This is aided by breast self awareness; knowing what your breast normally look, feel like and paying attention to any changes you may feel.
Ondo first lady, Betty Anyanwu Akeredolu, a survival of breast cancer and founder of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN) said that early detection was the key to her survival and advised women to always examine their bodies for any strange development. You must be be familiar with your breast in order to notice any unusual change.
Breast cancer is rare in men but typically has a significantly worse outcome as diagnosis of male breast cancer are often late when the cancer has already spread.
Mammography is recommended for every 2years in women between the ages of 50 and 74. It uses x-ray to examine the breast. But this also can increase the risk of breast cancer induced by radiation.
Management of breast cancer depends on various factors including the stage of the cancer and the person’s age. They can be treated with:
-surgery; involves the phsical removal of the tumour by amputating the breast. This is classified into 3:
*Mastectomy: removal of the whole breast
* Quadrantectomy: removal of one-quarter of the breast.
* Lumpectomy: removal of a small part of the breast.
– Chemotherapy: is predominantly used for cases of breast cancer in stage 2-4.
– Radiation therapy: this is given after the operation of breast cancer and can be harmful sometimes.
Other treatments include; hormonal therapy and targeted therapy. Treatment of breast cancer depends on the types of cancer and its stage (0-4). There are many types of cancer that differs in their capability of spreading(metastasized) to other body tissues.
Stage 1 cancer: have an excellent prognosis and are generally treated with lumpectomy and sometimes radiation.
Stage 2 and 3 cancer: has a progressively poorer prognosis and are generally treated with surgery.
Stage 4 cancer: metastatic cancer (i.e spread to distant sites) has poor prognosis and is managed by various combination of all treatments.
Once the tumour is removed, if the person desires, breast reconstruction surgery, a plastic surgery may be performed to improve the aesthetic appearance of the treated sites.
1. Maintain a healthy weight: being over weight or obese increase your breast cancer risk.
2. Exercise: women who work out regularly have a lower risk of breast cancer than less active women.
3. Consider breastfeeding your baby: women who breastfeed have lower risk of breast cancer than mums who do not breastfeed their children.
4. Limit intake of alcohol: the more u drink the higher your risk of breast cancer.
5. Reduce hormone intake: like taking hormones to relieve menopausal symptoms. Hormone therapy users are at higher risk for breast cancer.
6. High intake of citrus fruit and consumption of soy-based foods may reduce the risk.
On the last note,for those diagnosed with the disease either stage 0 or any of the stages, this is a little piece of advice.
Everything might become different, people might feel awkward around you and sometimes show less support. Every day of recovery will not be filled with sunshine and roses. Although, Some days it might sound nice to hide from the world and stare at your bedroom walls. What you are going through is awful and unfair. It’s okay to have a pity party occasionally, but long term sadness isn’t going to do you any good. Your diagnosis is just one chapter in your life history. It doesn’t have to consume the entire book. So make sure u are taking time to laugh, craft, volunteer or do whatever that makes you happy.
And for those without the disease, I would say show care and love to those affected and also abstain from the possible causes of breast cancer so as to curb this menace. I would advise you leave no stone unturned and stick dearly to the preventive measures. I implore all hands to be on deck to ensure we curb this deadly disease. Thank you
Agboola Zainab Titilope *ELITE*
Thoughtful and educative, thank you for sharing.