Breast Cancer is not an immediate, automatic death sentence
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Oluwole Sheriff Olusanya went and talked with Dr. Mobolaji A. Oludara on what ladies need to know about breast cancer. Here is what he came with.
As I broached the subject of mine visit and we had spent some time talking about it, the good doctor said: ‘I am surprised you know so much about Breast Cancer and you are not even a Medical Doctor.’ Boys do not blush, or do they?
The Encarta Encyclopaedia describes Breast Cancer as a malignant tumour of the glandular tissues of the breast. Such tumours, also called carcinomas, form when the processes that control normal cell growth break down, enabling abnormal cells to multiply at a rapid rate. Carcinomas, which tend to destroy an increasing proportion of normal breast tissue over time, may spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.
However, Dr. Oludara’s explanation is more explicit and understandable, He explained that Breast Cancer is an uncontrollable growth and multiplication of glandular cells that make-up the breast tissues and ducts that supplies milk to the nipples. Alternatively, it can simply be referred to as a kind of cancer that develops from breast cells.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, other than cervical cancer. Worldwide, it accounts for over 25% of all cancer cases. In 2012, it resulted in 1.68 million cases and 522,000 deaths globally. It is more common in developed countries; it is more than 100 times frequently reported in women than in men and this article focuses on female breast cancer. Outcomes for breast cancer vary depending on the cancer type, extent of disease, and person’s age. Survival rates in the developed world are high, with between 80% and 90% among those in England and the United States are alive for at least 5 years. However, in developing countries like Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries, the survival rates are poorer.
Apparently, there are two types of Breast Cancer namely; the lobular carcinoma – A breast cancer that started off in the lobules, and the one that developed from the ducts which is called ductal carcinoma. The erudite Doctor took his time to explain in details these types of breast cancers and the relationship between both of them.
Ø Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is an early form of breast cancer from the ducts. In DCIS, cancer cells are in the ducts of the breast, but they have not started to spread into the surrounding breast tissue. DCIS (in most cases) shows up on a mammogram and is usually diagnosed when women go for breast screening.
Ø Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) – In LCIS, there are changes to the cells lining the lobules and it increases the risk of developing breast cancer later in life. Most women with LCIS may not advance into full breast cancer when they are monitored with regular breast screening and mammograms with appropriate treatment.
It is pertinent to note that most breast cancers are invasive meaning that the cancer cells can spread outside the lining of the ducts or lobules into surrounding breast tissues and the types of breast cancers are not limited to these two, howbeit though they are discussed here as the main prototypes, it is to be noted that there are other types. (Dr. Mobolaji A. Oludara).
The Risk Factors are varied and range from individual genetic factors to environmental and lifestyle associated factors. Strictly speaking, scientists and physicians do not know the true causes of breast cancer but certain categories of women are known to be at increased risk of the disease:
v Those with a long menstrual history (early commencement of menses before the age of 11 and late cessation after age 55),
v Those who never gave birth or who waited until after age 30 to have children, and
v Those who have used birth control pills or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Such risk factors, all of which relate to hormone-based life events, suggest that breast cancer is somehow affected by prolonged exposure to female sex hormones, such as estrogen. (Encarta Encyclopaedia, 2009)
Dr. Oludara also stressed the relationship between breast cancer and hereditary genes. He gave an illustration of a 13 years old breast cancer patient whose mother also died of breast cancer at the age of 40. Women with a history of breast cancer in the family are at greater risk. About 5% of all breast cancers have been attributed to a mutated, or structurally altered, gene known as BRCA1. Mutations in a second gene, BRCA2, also contribute significantly to the development of the disease.
Symptoms & Prevention Tips
The early symptoms of breast cancer are usually an area of thickened tissue in the woman’s breast, (a lump). The majority of lumps are not cancerous; however, women should get them checked by a health care professional. Women who detect any of the following signs or symptoms should also tell their doctor: a lump in a breast, pain in the armpits or breast that does not seem to be related to the woman’s menstrual period, 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 swelling (lump) in one of the armpits amongst others as well as bloody nipple discharge.
In advanced cases, there is Ulceration and fixation of the tumour in the breast. The adjourning upper limb may also undergo grotesque swelling (upper limb lymphoedema). Spread to the lungs in advanced cases is accompanied by unrelenting cough, breathlessness and chest pain. When the disease advances to the liver and abdomen, water accumulates in the “tummy” (ascites). Advance diseases also spread to the bones and the brain.
Prevention Tips- I would suggest that the best and most effective prevention tip is the constant evaluation of the breast by the person which is medically referred to as Breast Self Examination (BSE). Any and all grey areas detected should be discussed with a medical practitioner. I would also suggest that constant medical examination at periodic intervals should be done by women especially where there has been a case of breast cancer in the family. X-ray examination of the breasts, a technique called mammography, can also increase the odds for successful treatment by detecting tumours in an early stage, before they are large enough to be felt.
I would like to implore my readers to ensure that all these information on breast cancer and ways to combat the scourge are shared with everyone we come across with so that we can do our bit to educate others on the dangers of this deadly disease. I would also like to acknowledge the fact that it was easier for me to understand and assimilate all the information needed on breast cancer because Dr. Oludara gave me the most valuable asset he has- his time. He is obviously a very busy person but the fact that he could spare some minutes on the most hectic day of the week to grant an interview to someone he has only met once really says a lot about the type of person he is. Friends, I must confess, I really like him and guess what? He likes to call me Mr. Oluwole. LOL.
God bless Dr. Oludara and every one of us.
Nigeria’s Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole