Omowunmi Ogundare, a 35-year old mother of two residing in one of the rural areas in the Southern part of Nigeria suddenly discovered a lump in one of her breasts. As it was painless, she ignored it and continued with her normal life. Seven months later, she noticed that the part of her breast where she saw the lump has turned reddish. It was then she rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed of breast cancer. She had surgery in the breast followed with a series of chemotherapy. Omuwunmi died a few months later as the cancer cells had spread to the entire body.
Another was the case of Tosin Williams, a 40-year old mother of four. She also discovered a lump on the right side of the breast. She quickly went to the hospital. The lump was later diagnosed to be cancerous. She had a surgery and the lump was successfully removed. Tosin is alive today without any traces of cancer in either of the breast.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and the second cause of death in women after lung cancer.
Medical experts are of the view that women who had first degree female relative with cancer, stand the risk of suffering from breast cancer .
According to them, women who started their menstrual cycle on or before 12 years of age and those who reached menopause after 55 years stand the risk of developing breast cancer.
‘’These two have a greater risk of developing breast cancer due to longer lifetime exposure to estrogen and progesterone, women who have no children, women who have their first child after age 30 both have a higher risk, having many pregnancies or becoming pregnant at an early age reduces the risk,” they added.
Speaking on the issue in a recent interview, a Lagos-based medical practitioner , Dr. Godwin Owo, said that other factors that can increase the risk of breast cancer include; hormone therapy, alcohol and tobacco use; overweight,obese or living a sedentary life.
On the other hand, Dr. Godwin explained that breastfeeding for 18 to 24 months may slightly reduce the risk.
Looking at other causes of breast cancer, the medical practitioner said : “There are trillion of cells in the body and those cells grow and divide with control. Cancer starts when a normal division becomes abnormal, one abnormal cell splits, copies itself at a rapid and abnormal rate and can spread through the blood and lymphatic system and other parts of the body.
“It is necessary to create more awarenes on the diseases as the incidence is on the increase
‘’ I saw two cases of breast cancer this year in women of 25 and 31 years respectfully and it is quite unusual to see women developing breast cancer at such early stage,’’ the Doctor said.
Signs of breast cancer, according to him include nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area; a change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast, a lump in the breast, among others.
Quoting a report, he said that white women are more likely to develop breast cancer, but more black women die of the disease because of lack of information.
Emphasizing the need for women to examine their breast regularly, he maintained that early detection goes a long way in managing the disease.
However, he advised, women to examine their breasts on the same day of their cycle or after every period.
Also, he stressed the need for women who are over 40 years of age to go for mammogram each year.
‘’If you are between 20 and 40 years, ask your doctor if you need a mammogram and if you are 40 years or above, a mammogram is advised every one or two years, prevention is better than cure,’’ he warned.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IAPC), as at 2008, 7.6 million people have died globally from cancer while it was predicted that the figure will reach 21 million in 2030.
In 2012, about 14.1 million new cases of cancer occurred globally and this does not include skin cancer other than melanoma. It caused about 8.2 million deaths or 14.6 percent of human deaths.
Apart from this, cancer has been responsible for 13 percent of all deaths in the world while 70 percent of these deaths occur in middle and low income countries like Nigeria.
It was also reported that only 17 percent of African countries have fund for cancer control programmes while less than 50 percent of the countries of the world can boast of such fund for cancer control programmes.
In Nigeria, 10,000 people die annually from cancer while 250,000 new cases are reported annually.
However, medical experts are of the view that some cancers can be prevented by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, not drinking too much alcohol.
Also they observed that eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, vaccination against certain infectious diseases, not eating too much processed and red meat, and avoiding too much sunlight exposure can also prevent cancer.
Speaking on the importance of healthy life style, Executive director of Indulge, a wellness Magazine , Mrs. Bisi Abiola stressed the need of putting healthy living into action in order to get good health.
Highlighting importance of healthy lifestyle, Mrs. Abiola, further explained that healthy life style reduces incidence and impact of health problems; improve quality of life and life expectancy ; build immune against chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, mental illness and joint diseases.
According to her, one can adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating balanced diet, exercising at least 30 minutes a day and ; saying no to stress, drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary drinks.
On his part, a medical practitioner Dr. Femi Olugbi, regretted that Nigerians do not go to hospital for medical check up until they are half dead. It is cheaper to ensure wellness than to treat illness .
In his words, “Some people just come to hospital to die because their ailment has reached an advanced stage that little or nothing could be done to remedy their< situation.
Also, he advised women with family history of breast cancer to begin screening ten years prior to the family member’s age of diagnosis so as to avoid the chances of suffering the same ailment.
In all, medical experts stressed the need for women to examine their breasts regularly, adding that such efforts will go a long way in early diagnosis and prevention of breast cancer.