BREAST CANCER….A SILENT KILLER AND A BIG THREAT TO WOMEN
Cancer is an abnormal growth in the body resulting from a damage or an alteration in the normal DNA component of the gene of the body caused by carcinogen ( cancer causing agent)
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women It is the number one killer cancer, followed by cervical cancer in women. It is estimated that the death toll from breast cancer is at an alarming rate of 500 per annum and about 30,000 new cases are expected to develop eery year, local studies have shown that out of every 20 to 25 Nigerian women would have breast cancer within their lifetime , yet the awareness of this diaease entity amongst our women is very low. the majority of new breast cancers are diagnosed as a result of abnormality seen on a mammogram,a lump or a change in constistence of the breast tissue can also be a warning sign of the disease. Although breast cancer in women is a common form of cancer, male breast cancer does occur and it accounts for about 1% of all cancer deaths in men.
CAUSES OR RISK FACTORS
Being overweight,use of hormone replacement theraphy, drinking alchol, not having children or having your first child after age 35 , having dense breast, short period of breast feeding, radiation from high doses of x-rays , unwanted radiations, trauma to the breast, age ( the chance of getting breast cancer increases as a woman get older ), genes ( inheritance of BRCAI and BRACA2 increases the risk of breastcancer), abortion during the first pregnancy increases the risk of breast cancer before age of 45years to 50%, if done before 18years , it is increased by 150%.
SYMPTOMS OF BREAST CANCER
Unusual lump in the breast or armpit, skin discolouration, skin puckering or thickening, change in size or shape of the breast, nipple retraction, boil on the breast, nipple discharge and breast pain ( is found in few patients or people)
PREVENTION / TREATMENT
This can be done in three categories, namely: primary ,secondary and tertiary.
Primary appraoch : Reduce or eliminate exposure to radiation by modifying your life style.
Secondary appraoch: Screening and early detection by self breast examination and clinical breast examination by physicians.
Tertiary approach : Prompt diagnosis and treatment by using effective theraphy, symptoms and good management.
SELF BREAST EXAMINATION
Is recommended for a woman to do self breast examination routinely or atleast each month usually just after menses to check for the normal look or feeling of the breast. Look for a lump , hard knot or skin that thickens or dimples, report any changes to your doctor or nurse who would conduct regular breast examination. Ask about a mammogram if you are up to 40 years old. The National Cancer Institute recommends that women follow these steps in doing monthly self breast examinations :
Place a pillow under your right shoulder. Put your right hand under your head. Check your entire breast area with the finger pads of your left hand.Use small circles and follow up and down pattern. Use light ,medium and firm pressure over each area of your breast and repeat steps on your left breast.
BEFORE A MIRROR
Check for any changes in the shape or look of your breast. Note for any skin or nipple changes such as dimpling or nipple discharge. Inspect your breasts in four steps: arms at side ,arms overhead , hands on hips pressing firmly to flex chest muscles and bending forward.
IN THE SHOWER
Raise your right arm, with soapy hands and fingers flat, check your right breast . Use the method of lying down step and repeat this on your left breast.If you still menstruate, the best time to do breast self examination is two or three days after menses. If you no longer menstruate, pick a certain day such as the first day of each month for it.
BREAST CANCER SCREENING GUILDLINES
Beginning at age 18 : perform monthly self breast examination
Age 20 to 39 monthly self breast examination and clinical breast examination at least every three years
Age 40 and above : do annual mammography.
NEEDS OF A BREAST CANCER PATIENT
The attitude to a breast cancer patient is influenced by the attitude of people close to her and quality of support she recieves from them. Communication is very important,because adequate information is needed to enhance therapy and treatment. Proper education of the family and relatives of the patients on how to relate and support her is very indispensable.They should be reassured that cancer is not infectious and cannot be spread to other family members.
Cancer is a disease of the mind, body and soul. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior to be a survivor. She should learn how to be doting, have forgiven spirit, learn how to relax and enjoy life. Cancer is not the end of her world.
DEDICATED TO ALL AFRICAN WOMEN.
CULLED FROM CURATIO MAGAZINE, NUNSA,COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA ENUGU CAMPUS