Breast Cancer: What You Need To Know

Breast Cancer remains a leading cause of cancer mortality globally particularly among women; according to the World Health Organization more than 500,000 women die annually from this disease .It is currently the most common cause of cancer among Nigerian women. In developing countries in particular, it is a leading cause of cancer related death due to late detection.

Who is at risk of breast cancer?

  • Women typically but it may occur in men very rarely
  • Females above the age of 55
  • Females with a family history of the disease especially in immediate relatives e.g. mother, sister or daughter
  • A previous history of breast disease especially previous breast cancer
  • A previous history of radiation therapy to the chest region
  • Dense breasts on mammogram
  • Older age at first birth or never giving birth
  • Previous exposure to Diethylstylbestrol (a synthetic estrogen)
  • Women who are obese
  • Females who take alcohol excessively
  • Inherited gene changes (In BRCA 1 and 2 suggestive of a high risk of Breast Cancer) this can only be determined via genetic testing.

It is important to note that the presence of a risk factor does not guarantee a future diagnosis of breast cancer and some individuals have been found to have breast cancer without falling into any of the categories listed above.

The following groups of individuals have been found to have a decreased risk of breast cancer

  • Older age at first menstrual period
  • Pregnancy at a younger age
  • Breastfeeding moms
  • Earlier onset of menopause
  • Previous ovarian ablation(Ovarian suppression through surgery ,medication etc)

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

  • A lump in the breast or armpit
  • Dimpling on the skin of the breast
  • Nipple Discharge excluding milk
  • Nipple or breast distortion
  • Pain, redness or swelling of the breast

Treatment of breast cancer involves one or more of the following:

  • Surgery - To remove the lump or the breast depending on the extent of spread
  • Chemotherapy - Taking anti-cancer medication
  • Radiotherapy - Using radiologic methods to kill the cancerous cells

Early screening allows for early detection of breast cancer. Screening refers to looking for tell-tale signs of cancer before the development of symptoms.

What forms of screening are available?

Breast Self Examination (BSE): This refers to checking your breasts yourself periodically (preferably monthly after the monthly period) for any abnormal changes or lumps. Make sure to do it while lying down and also while sitting up. If a lump is discovered during BSE please consult a doctor for further evaluation of the lump as soon as possible.

Clinical Breast Examination: This refers to physical examination of the breasts carried out by a nurse or a doctor for lumps or changes.

Mammogram: This is an X-Ray of the breast and is the most objective and reliable form of screening for breast lumps. Mammograms are recommended for women aged 40 and above; Women aged 50 to 74 are advised to undergo mammography at least once every 2 years.

How can I reduce my risk of Breast Cancer?

  • Limit intake of alcohol
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Screen for breast cancer periodically( Breast exams for younger women and mammograms for older women)
  • Do breastfeed, it reduces the risk.
  • Speak to your doctor about the risk of developing breast cancer before commencing hormone replacement therapy
  • Limit exposure to radiation

With the advent of screening, devastating outcomes in breast cancer ought to be on the decrease; late detection is associated with a decreased survival rate .Please undergo breast cancer screening today and recommend it to friends and family members. Early detection and treatment will prevent unnecessary pain and suffering

You can contact us today about screening!