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Breast Cancer and Its Early Detection

Dr Dami Ajayi

15th Mar, 2016

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I once heard a hilarious Ghanaian proverb through the music of Fela. Fe Fe Na Efe. It translates that it is not the fear of her breasts falling off that makes a woman hold her breasts while running, but rather a sign of beauty. It is no gainsaying that a woman’s breasts are her priced anatomy, for a plethora of obvious reasons: it asserts her gender identity, it is an important tool of motherhood and indeed of sexual intimacy.  This is why the breasts are the pride of a woman.

 In recent times, there has been an alarming upsurge in the incidence of cancers in general. In women, breast and cervical cancers are among the common causes of death and disability even in our environment. Although cancer is erroneously assumed to be a death sentence by most people, others believe that people could be afflicted with it. Harmful beliefs abound in a superstitious society like ours. To think that women believe that stuffing money into their brassieres could give them Breast Cancer? Or that Cancer is an infectious process that could be cured by spiritual intervention.  All these confirm that there is a pool of ignorance from which the masses draw their thoughts and order their actions and reactions towards these emerging diseases.

Little wonder most patients attend hospitals late when the cancer has moved from the breast to other organs in the body. The outcome of a metastatic disease is dire especially because its treatment is different and less radical than when the cancer is detected when it is still nascent.

This spells out the reason for a high sense of personal surveillance as cancers are best caught early. The major methods known to detect Breast Cancer early include Self Breast Examination, Clinical Breast Examination and Mammography.

 

Self-Breast Examination

When a woman stands in front of the mirror to examine herself, she is not fondling herself. She is in the gradual process of palpating her breasts with flat of her palm; she is carefully studying the architecture of her breasts to pick out contours, obvious lumps and disfigurement. This act must be encouraged. Husbands and partners should be recruited in examining the woman’s breast as the commonest early symptom of cancer is a painless lump in the breast.

Self–Breast Examination should be carried out at least once in a month. It also helps in detecting some other breast pathologies like Fibroadenoma, which also presents with a lump and is commoner amongst younger women of reproductive age-group. Hence, not all that is lump is Breast Cancer.

 

Clinical Breast Examination

This is usually carried out by Health Practitioners ranging from nurses to seasoned doctors. It is encouraged because doctors and nurses have sensitive and trained hands. Of course, there is the importance of second opinions which is assured when self-breast examination is complemented with an occasional clinical breast examination, and as it is often said that two heads are better than one, four hands will surely  be better than two.

Young ladies and women in the reproductive age group should have their breasts examined at least once in three years and older women annually.

 

Mammography

This is a special kind of x-ray that are shot on the breasts and it shadows are studied to detect presence of lumps. It is encouraged that women above 35 years should have it done annually, indeed in western countries, there are special programmes put in place to attend to this.

 

Although it is most expensive, both in terms of cash, time and even specialty, it is also a valid method of early detection of breast cancer and must be pursued. The pursuance of these techniques by all females is important, but even more in the elderly women (above 50 years) and those who have a family history of Breast Cancer.

Again, I must reiterate, not all breast lump or breast discharge is Breast Cancer, this is the reason why patients experiencing symptoms should visit the hospital to be properly investigated and managed.

Cancer is not a spiritual phenomenon, there is a part to be played by a belief system to strengthen resolve; asides from that there is not even an empirical basis for deliverance, extended prayers and fasting especially if there is no medical attention to complement it.

Let us assume responsible healthy practices. Have your breasts examined today!!!