“As October ushers in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a great time to take stock of our knowledge of this disease and its risks and symptoms, and at Bayelsa Diagnostic Centre, we believe that awareness is more than just a month. It’s about staying informed and helping you take the right steps to fight breast cancer, including early detection through annual screenings. But first, let’s have a quick refresher on the basics of breast cancer.”

Breast cancer is a malignant (cancerous) growth that begins in the tissues of the breast. Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled way. It is the most common cancer in women, but it can also appear in men.

Breast cancer constitutes a major public health issue globally with over 1 million new cases diagnosed annually, resulting in over 400,000 annual deaths and about 4.4 million women living with the disease. It is the commonest site specific malignancy affecting women and the most common cause of cancer mortality in women worldwide. It is also found in men but not very common. According to numbers provided by Globocan in 2002, breast cancer is responsible for about 16% of all cancer related deaths in Nigeria. This is indeed a worrisome trend and it appears to be the norm in Nigeria.

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors that have been associated with breast cancer, and being a female is one of the factors we really cannot do much about. The chance of getting it increases with the age of the woman; the older women get the more chances of getting breast cancer.

A history of breast cancer in close relatives especially in mothers and siblings has been associated with the risks of getting breast cancer. Also, an early onset of menstrual periods before the age of 12 years or reaching menopause after the age of 55 years have both been associated with risks of developing breast cancer. These can be explained by prolong period of Estrogen exposure in females. Other risks include being overweight, using hormone replacement therapy, taking birth control pills, drinking alcohol, not having children or having your first child after age 35 or having dense breasts.

Signs and Symptoms

  • a pain in the armpits or breast that does not change with the monthly cycle
  • growth of a usually painless lump in the breast
  • pitting or redness of the skin of the breast, like the skin of an orange
  • a rash around or on one of the nipples
  • a discharge from a nipple, possibly containing blood
  • a sunken or inverted nipple
  • a change in the size or shape of the breast
  • peeling, flaking, or scaling of the skin on the breast or nipple

Most lumps are not cancerous, but women should have them checked by a health care professional.

Annual Mammograms and Reducing your Risks

One of the best methods of early detection is an annual mammogram. A mammogram is a simple, routine screening that helps detect breast cancer earlier than waiting for symptoms to appear. Regular mammograms are recommended for women 40 years of age and older. If you are at higher risk for breast cancer, you may need to begin regular mammograms sooner.

In addition to annual mammograms for early detection, there are proactive things you can do to help lower your risk for breast cancer, including regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, limited alcohol intake and avoidance of chemicals that can cause cancer.

While breast cancer can be a scary proposition, scheduling an annual mammogram to aid in early detection and living a healthy lifestyle to help reduce your risk can give you the peace of mind that comes from staying on top of your breast health.

Article Provided by Solomon Ubom (Head Radiographer/RSO), with references from;

https://www.myharrisregional.com/news/october-2018-monthly-health-article-breast-cancer-awareness

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/37136

http://www.gamji.com/article6000/NEWS7489.htm

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