Breast cancer is the commonest cancer in Nigeria. It accounts for 38% of all cancer cases in Nigeria. About 40 women die daily from breast cancer in the country making it the highest cancer killer in Nigeria - higher than cervical and prostate cancer fatalities combined. Early diagnosis of breast cancer coupled with accurate and timely treatment lead to better outcomes.
Most breast cancers are diagnosed in women. However, men do have breast tissue and can develop breast cancer. Still, less than one percent of all breast cancers occur in men.
Although a lump is the most common sign of breast cancer, there are actually other warning signs you need to know about. Some of these warning signs can only be seen and cannot be felt.⠀⠀
Symptoms of breast cancer are the same in women and men. These symptoms include:
- a lump in one breast
- a nipple that turns inward (inverts)
- nipple pain
- discharge from the nipple
- redness, dimpling, or scaling on the breast’s skin
- redness or sores on the nipple or ring around the nipple
- swollen lymph nodes in armpits
In most cases, these changes may not be cancer. However if you experience any of the symptoms listed above, see your healthcare provider immediately.
Also, if you’ve had a benign lump in the past, do not assume a new lump will also be benign. The new lump may not be breast cancer, but it’s best to make sure.
As with women, breast cancer in men can spread or metastasize to other parts of the body. Diagnosing the cancer in early stages important. This way, you and your doctor can quickly begin treating the cancer.
Ladies, ensure you do your regular breast checks. Remember, early detection and treatment saves lives.
Certain factors increase a woman’s risk to having breast cancer and these are shown below:
Although breast cancer is rare in men, it’s important to know if you’re at risk. That’s because men aren’t routinely screened for breast cancer like women are. A man’s risk of getting breast cancer during his lifetime is about 1 in 1,000.
The disease is much less common in men because their breast ducts — where the cancer starts — are less well-developed than women’s. Men also have lower levels of estrogen, the hormone that fuels breast cancer growth.
Risks for male breast cancer include:
Age: Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re more likely to get breast cancer as you get older. The average age for a man to get diagnosed is 68. However, you can get breast cancer at any age.
Genes: Breast cancer runs in families. If your father, brother, or other close relatives were diagnosed, you may also be at risk.
Weight gain: Fat tissue releases the female hormone estrogen. Estrogen stimulates breast cancer growth. The more overweight you are, the more of this hormone you produce.
Hormone exposure: You’re at higher risk for breast cancer if you take hormone-based drugs (for example, to treat prostate cancer), or if you were exposed to estrogen through food, pesticide, or other products.
Heavy alcohol use: Drinking a lot of alcohol can cause estrogen levels in your blood to rise.
Liver disease: Cirrhosis and other diseases that damage the liver can reduce the amount of male hormones and increase the amount of estrogen in your body.
Surgery to your testicles: Damage to your testicles can increase your risk for breast cancer.
Radiation exposure: Radiation is linked to breast cancer. If you received radiation to the chest to treat another type of cancer, you could be at greater risk for breast cancer.
Many risks for breast cancer — like family history and age — are out of your control. But there are a few risk factors you can control, including obesity.
Here are some tips to help lower your odds of getting breast cancer:
- Keep your weight within a healthy range. Obesity can shift the hormone balance in your body, making you more likely to get breast cancer. If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor and a dietician about making changes to your eating and exercise plan.
- Exercise on most days of the week. A lack of physical activity can alter your hormone levels, making you more susceptible to cancer.
- Avoid or limit alcohol. Having two or more alcohol drinks daily has been linked to an in-creased risk for breast cancer in women. Even though the link isn’t as clear in men, it’s still worth cutting back.
According to the World Health Organization, a third of cancers can be prevented. With early detection another third can be cured. With a few lifestyle changes, we can lower the risk of developing some cancers. Here are some of these changes:
Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body, which makes it more serious, and it eventually leads to death.
Your outlook depends on what type of cancer you have and how quickly you’re diagnosed. Your odds of being cured are highest if you catch the cancer early. The five-year relative survival rate for stage 0 or stage 1 breast cancer is 100 percent. That’s why it’s important to check your breasts regularly, and alert your doctor right away if you spot any changes
How to Check Yourself
- Pick a date. Hormones impact how your breasts feel, so it’s a good idea to wait a few days after your menstrual cycle ends. If you do not have a period, pick a date on the calendar you can easily remember, such as the first or fifteenth, and schedule your self-exam.
- Take a look. Remove your top and bra. Stand in front of a mirror. Observe how your breasts look, inspecting them for changes in symmetry, shape, size, or color. Raise both arms, and repeat the visual inspection, noting the changes to your breasts’ shape and size when your arms are extended.
- Inspect each breast. Once you’ve completed the visual exam, lie down on a bed or sofa. Use the soft pads of your fingers to feel for lumps, cysts, or other abnormalities. To keep the inspection uniform, start at your nipple and work your way out, to your breastbone and armpit, in a spiral pattern. Repeat on the other side.
- Squeeze your nipple. Gently squeeze on each nipple to see if you have any discharge.
- Repeat in the shower. Do one final inspection in the shower. Let warm water and soap make the manual examination easier by gliding your fingers over your breasts. Start at your nipple and work your way out in a spiral pattern. Repeat on the other breast.
- Keep a journal. Subtle changes may be hard to detect, but a journal might help you see developments as they occur. Jot down any unusual spots and check them again in a few weeks. If you find any lumps, see your doctor.
Called from: AIICO