Professor of Radiology at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu Campus, Ifeoma Okoye, has reinforced the importance of regular breast self-examination, stressing that it remains key to early detection and reduction in preventable deaths to breast cancer.
She explained that early stage of breast cancer is asymptomatic, which is why regular breast examination is important as it will help to detect lesions, which could still be treatable and curable.
Okoye, who is also the Director of the University of Nigeria Nsukka Centre for Clinical Trials, said symptoms such as breast lump or hard lumps in the armpit with uneven edges may be detected by simple breast examination, saying that the goal of regular screening is to nip cancers in the bud.
Speaking during the virtual and physical Breast Cancer Awareness programme and medical screening organised by nigeriacurrently.com Media Foundation in collaboration with nigeriacurrently.com Nigeria Limited, she said that health and human rights are intrinsically linked, and that human health cannot be improved if the rights are not upheld.
According to her, human rights cannot also be realised without the pre-conditions of good health, insisting that winning the war against breast cancer in Nigeria starts from implementation of the Universal Health Coverage in the country.
During the event, which was held within the nigeriacurrently.com premises in Magboro, Ogun State, the Consultant noted that introduction and implementation of essential health policies such as prioritising preventive health and identifying priorities for action can reduce late presentation, financial burden and mortality from breast and cervical cancers.
She said, “Cancer is not only a global health challenge but also a stark reminder of the disparities that persist in healthcare delivery. In high-income countries, oncology clinical trials have been instrumental in the driving process and innovation.”
According to the Radiologist, about 350, 000 to 500, 000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Nigeria annually, and about 83 to 87 per cent of them presented at late stages when nothing can be done to help, thereby increasing the death rate by 70 per cent.
She lamented that one in every 25 women dies of breast cancer in Nigeria, saying, “The five year breast cancer survival rate in Nigeria is less than 40 per cent compared to 86 per cent in the USA. This fortified the narrative that breast cancer is a death sentence and continues to make it difficult to convince our populace otherwise.”
She, however, noted that low income countries in Africa are lagging behind in cancer treatment and management, and face barriers such as limited access to cutting-edge therapies, insufficient structures and shortages in skilled medical personnel.
According to her, the causes of breast cancer are unknown, which is the reason people are advised to get screened to be sure of their status with a view to detecting the diease early.
Okoye said, “Mammography is the key breast imaging technique and cornerstone of screening. Its sensitivity of 70 to 90 per cent is higher than that of Clinical Breast Examination of 48 to 69 per cent. Mammography reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer for women ages 40 to 69, especially for those over age 50.
“Other screening adjuncts to mammography include ultrasonography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging Elastography, Breast-Specific Gamma Imaging, thermography (infrared mammography) and digital tomosynthesis.”
Speaking on the risk factors, she stated that there are two types; the controllable and uncontrollable risks.
She explained, “Being a woman is a factor that cannot be controlled. Any woman can have breast cancer. The chance of a woman getting breast cancer in her lifetime is about one in eight. Early beginning of menstruation and late menopause are risk factors. Family or personal history of breast cancer is also a risk factor.
“Also, genetic hereditary factors, intake of alcohol, smoking including inhaling smoke as secondly smoker, leading sedentary lifestyle, obesity, wrong diet, radiation before puberty, breastfeeding less than 15 months, and first pregnancy ending in abortion among others, are all risk factors.”
Speaking on the possibility of men having breast cancer, the Chief Executive Officer, Q-Impact Medicare Limited, Lagos, Dr. Lekan Adelakun said men also die of breast cancer but the rate for men is not as high as that of women.
All over the world, he said, breast cancers in men have been neglected because the world feels that breast cancer does not occur in men, yet they are dying of the disease.
“One in 833 men develops breast cancer in his lifetime, whereas one in eight women develops breast cancer in her lifetime, yet the men die more because the women are aware of theirs and seek treatment early, while men present very late and subsequently, die,” he said.
On risk factors for male, he said, “Being a transgender is a risk; being above 50 years of age; having certain genetic mutations; taking estrogens therapy; testicle injuries or surgeries; tobacco use; liver disease, especially cirrhosis; mumps in adulthood and diabetes mellitus, among others.”
However, a breast cancer survivor, Mrs. Abisayo Fakiyesi, who lost her left breast to the disease, recounted her survival story to encourage others.
She advised the participants and public, especially other cancer survivors not to slide into depression as she did at one point, but to remain focused and resilient till the end.
“I was depressed. Yes, there might be stigma here and there but I pushed on. Instead, I pencilled down my thoughts as I remembered the words of my spiritual mother. I was facing stigma in every part of life including in my family, among friends and colleagues because I was still working while going through this, but I wasn’t deterred.
“I didn’t allow it to overwhelm me. Even a day before my surgery in India, I still got an advert for my company. I spent all that I had. I lost relationships. People who were interested in me left when I opened up to them. But I still understood that mine will always be mine.
“It was hurting at one point but I overcame that and it didn’t bother me again when people left my life. I got married last week. At one point, I had a section with a psychiatrist because I wanted my mental health to be intact while going through this.”
On the nutrition intake while battling breast cancer, she added, “During my treatment, the doctor said I should eat everything I want but in moderation. Yes, I had memory and hair loss due to the chemotherapy that I went through. My left breast was cut off and I have only one to breastfeed my baby.”
In her closing remark, Assistant Manager, Human Capital, nigeriacurrently.com Nigeria Limited, Mrs. Temitope Olusesan-Biala, who was impressed with the outcome of the programme, thanked the guest speakers, the cancer survivor, the participants, management and board of nigeriacurrently.com for making the programme a success and reality.
In the same vein, the moderator of the programme, Mrs. Blessing Oduniyi of the nigeriacurrently.com Media Foundation, thanked the participants, especially the guest speakers, management and staff of nigeriacurrently.com Nigeria Limited for being an exciting part and parcel of the successful programme.
Meanwhile, part of activities outlined for the sensitisation programme was free medical screening for all staff, coordinated by Live Well Initiative.
The medical team was led by a Public Health Officer and Operations Manager, LWI, Tosin Adeosun.
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