By Seun Adeuyi
Ize felt a lump in her left breast for some years but didn’t visit the hospital because it didn’t cause her any pain. But by the time she started feeling pain and went to the hospital, she was diagnosed of breast cancer.
She had to undergo surgery for the breast and chemotherapy sessions as the cancer spread to the other breast.
She said medical doctors at the hospital told her that while all breast lumps are not cancerous, it is good to visit the hospital immediately you notice one to get it checked by experts and ascertain if it was cancerous.
The most common cancers in Nigeria are breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate cancer, according to a 2018 cancer report from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
WHO said breast cancer was the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide in 2020, with 685,000 deaths attributed to it.
The Globacan 2020 report showed that in Nigeria, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths currently representing 23% of all cancer cases and approximately 18% of deaths.
Prof. Ifeoma Okoye, a cancer specialist, said over 80 per cent of Nigerians is ignorant about cancer generally, and also unaware that early detection saves lives.
Okoye, who is a Professor of Radiation Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Nsukka, in her presentation titled ‘Breast Cancer, A Serious Threat to Life – Prevent it Now’, at a recent virtual meeting said statistics released by the International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) in December 2020, showed that breast cancer has overtaken lung cancer as the world’s mostly diagnosed cancer.
She said: “In Nigeria, breast cancer is a scourge with resultant high morbidity and mortality in young and middle age groups when they are best productive in contributing to the socio-economic development of our nation.”
While stating that early detection still remained the best way to control breast cancer, she explained that if detected early with adequate diagnosis and treatment, there was a good chance of being cured.
“The cause of breast cancer is unknown. That is why it is important to get tested, to be sure to detect it early. Early breast cancer usually does not cause symptoms. This is why regular breast exams are important,” she said.
She said as the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
– Breast lump or lump in the armpit that is hard, has uneven edges, and usually does not hurt.
– Change in the size, shape, or feel of the breast or nipple. For example, you may have redness, dimpling, or puckering that looks like the skin of an orange.
– Fluid coming from the nipple – may be bloody, clear-to-yellow, or green, and look like pus.
Prof Okoye noted that symptoms of advanced breast cancer may include, bone pain, breast pain or discomfort, skin ulcers, swelling of one arm (next to the breast with the cancer and weight loss).
The experts said early diagnosis is very crucial for a successful breast cancer treatment, and a greater percentage of breast cancer deaths can be prevented.
Prof Okoye recommended some of the following preventive measures for breast cancer:
– Avoid being pregnant for the first time after age 30
– Avoid smoking and inhaling secondary smoke
– Avoid drinking alcohol
– Avoid being obese/overweight, especially belle fat
– Avoid contraceptives
– Stop wrong diet
She said some local foods with cancer chemo-preventive properties are: peppers, soya, garlic, turmeric spice, sour soup.
Others are ginger, green tea, cabbage, Hausa kola (red and white), Igala kola (traditional) bitter kola (false cola) and pears and palm oil.