Cancer, especially of the breast, has become a problem of great concern to many people in Nigeria and even globally. In Nigeria, where income is poor and medical facilities are in a deplorable state, diagnosing any one of breast cancers is like sending the person to the guillotine as the rate of survival is abysmally low. Some health workers have said that this high mortality rate is caused by late stage presentation, poor health-seeking behaviour, misdiagnosis, belief in faith healing and the patronage of traditional medicine, among others.
As the world continues to commemorate the 2023 Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which began on October 1, 2023, and will end on October 31, 2023, there has been great efforts in creating awareness about the disease. Despite the awareness that some organizations, including voluntary and religious groups, are making, efforts to ensure that young ladies and women go for cancer screening early enough have not yielded the desired result. Many would still not go, for reasons ranging from cost to quality assurance, fear of chemotherapy, traditional beliefs and male chauvinism especially as screening centers are dominated by male handlers.
Chances of breast cancer fatality high in the country.
Also, some young ladies and women are very reluctant to have men who are not their husbands, lovers or brothers examine their breasts. This belief has not only made many women miss early detection, treatment and management of the disease. This has allowed their situations to degenerate before giving the ailment the required attention needed. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), breast cancer, especially in Low-Middle-Income-Countries (LMIC), including Nigeria, is the second leading cause of cancer death in women.
The global health body added that the chance that 1 woman in every 39 will die of breast cancer is high. This seems to be the case as many advanced breast cancer patients in the country are women in their pre-menopausal stage; that is from mid-30s to mid-40s. These are women that are still in their productive age and part of the nation’s active workforce. The most terrifying side of the disease is that medical experts say there have been cases of this type of cancer among female adolescents and young ladies within the age bracket of 15 and 25. This is a concern that should be tackled with supreme urgency.
Checking for lumps as a precaution to the deadly disease.
President, Uzoaru Breast Cancer Awareness Enlightenment Foundation, James, who earlier spoke on how to care for these patients, lists four steps to check for lumps in one’s breasts. He said that it is advisable for a start that they check their breasts bi-monthly. Each must be before the period begins and again the week after the period. “But if you are worried that something has gone wrong, then check it monthly,” he said. This is because there might be changes on the breasts as a lady goes through her menstrual cycle.
He advised that they stand in front of a mirror and take a look at them. They should inspect them for any change in the nipple inversion, skin changes, redness, flaking nipples, dimpling skin, nipple brown or red discharge or asymmetry. If there is anything unusual, they should not hesitate to see a doctor. While seated or lying down, they should raise their left arm and later their right arm, just as they raised their arm. This displaces the muscle and makes them feel the breast tissue better. “Run your hand through your breast for any sign that has not been there before then,” he said.
Final instructions on what to look out for during checks.
Finally, they should maintain a pattern for the check. They can start by running their hand on their nipple and later shift to running it around the nipple in a spiral or up and down or left to right movement. Following a pattern like this will enable a lady to dictate any changes, lumps or abnormalities in the breast. It is also worthy to note that not all changes are lumps. “If you notice any change, do not panic, rather reach out to your medical doctor or reach out to physicians at the Uzoaru Breast Cancer Awareness Enlightenment Foundation, Idimu, Lagos,” the doctor said.
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