Why early detection is key in breast cancer prevention

KayCee
By KayCee July 28, 2014 08:24

Veronica Okafor is a 30-year-old three-year breast cancer survivor. It was in 2008 when she first noticed a lump in her left breast and thought it was a normal thing and so overlooked it until 2010 when she had to go through a mastectomy, the removal of her left breast.

Speaking of her experience at a recent workshop on ‘Breast Cancer Prevention, Early Detection and Cure’, Veronica said, “It was when my fiancé noticed it and asked what it was that jolted him because the lump which was found in the left breast wasn’t noticed in the right breast”.

Veronica’s fiancé was disturbed though and advised they contact the family matron in January 2009, who explained that it wasn’t anything to worry about, because, according to Veronica, she said she had treated a girl with such condition before and she was okay.

The matron promised to treat her with drugs and injections with a promise that the lump would dissolve. Veronica paid a weekly sum of N5, 800 to her family matron for eight months January 2009 till August 2010.

After eight months and no improvement, she offered to visit LUTH for expert review, but was discouraged by the matron and when she tried to inform her mother about her fears, her fiancé discouraged her also because he felt the mother would be devastated since she had just lost her husband.

The journey to diagnosing the real problem took her to a private medical doctor, who first hinted her about tumour, which had spread. He tried to remove some of the lump at the time, but that was no palliative.

A laboratory test later confirmed it to be tumour and the doctor told her the breast would have to be ‘chopped off’. This verdict scared Veronica, who had to go through series of other checks which took time and later had to go under the knife of yet another surgeon in a General Hospital, who according to Veronica, “did a bad job on the breast”.

However, an eventual diagnosis and check at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital Pathology Laboratory revealed that the lumps had become cancerous. This was in 2010 and then the breast was promptly removed.

According to the Executive Secretary, Sebeccly Cancer Care, Lagos, Dr Omolola Salako, there are certain factors, which increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. These include: Being a female gender.

“The strongest risk factor for breast cancer is age in developed countries, genetic alterations (changes): Inherited changes in certain genes such as BRCA1, BRCA2 increase the risk of breast cancer.

Others are: Mammographic breast density: Women who have a high percentage of breast tissue that appears dense on a mammogram have a higher risk of breast cancer than women of similar age who have little or no dense breast tissue.

Family history: A woman’s chance of developing breast cancer increases if her first degree or close male blood relative has breast cancer.

Personal history of breast cancer: Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to develop a second breast cancer.

Certain breast changes found on biopsy: Changes that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include atypical hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ and ductal carcinoma in situ.

Race: In the United States, breast cancer is diagnosed more often in white women than in African American/black, Hispanic/Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, or American Indian/Alaska Native women.

Radiation therapy: Women who had radiation therapy to the chest (including the breasts) before age 30 have an increased risk of developing breast cancer throughout their lives. This includes women treated for Hodgkin lymphoma.

Alcohol: Studies indicate that the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of breast cancer.

Reproductive and menstrual history: Women who had their first menstrual period before age 12 or who went through menopause after age 55 have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Women who had their first full-term pregnancy after age 30 or who have never had a full-term pregnancy are also at increased risk of breast cancer.

Long-term use of menopausal hormone therapy: Women who used combined estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapy for more than five years have an increased chance of developing breast cancer.

Body weight: Studies have found that among postmenopausal women who have not used menopausal hormone therapy, the chance of getting breast cancer is higher in women who are overweight or obese than in women of a healthy weight.

Physical activity level: Women who are physically inactive throughout life may have an increased risk of breast cancer.

She however pointed out that there are certain factors, which equally reduce chances of women developing breast cancer, and these are:

Reproductive and menstrual history: Women who had their first menstrual period before age 12 or who went through menopause after age 55 have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Women who had their first full-term pregnancy after age 30 or who have never had a full-term pregnancy are also at increased risk of breast cancer.

Long-term use of menopausal hormone therapy: Women who used combined estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapy for more than five years have an increased chance of developing breast cancer.

Body weight: Studies have found that among postmenopausal women who have not used menopausal hormone therapy, the chance of getting breast cancer is higher in women who are overweight or obese than in women of a healthy weight.

Physical activity level: Women who are physically inactive throughout life may have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Salako advised on early detection using one or all of the following methods:

Mammography: The most important screening test for breast cancer is the mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It can detect breast cancer up to two years before the tumour can be felt by a woman or her doctor.

Women age 40 or older who are at average risk of breast cancer should have a mammogram once a year. Women at high risk should have yearly mammograms along with an MRI starting at age 30.

Clinical Breast Exam (CBE): A doctor examines for any possible signs of breast cancer. Women in their 20s or 30s should have a CBE about every three years as part of a general health exam. Women over 40 should have a CBE once a year.

Source: Dailyindepenent.com

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KayCee
By KayCee July 28, 2014 08:24