Ever since the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to
participants during its New York City race for breast cancer survivors
in 1991, the pink ribbon has come to be accepted as a symbol of support
for breast cancer awareness.
As this breast cancer awareness month of October comes to an end, and
as many join the awareness campaign by wearing the pink ribbon, it would
help a great deal if people are encouraged to take the exercise of
personal breast examination seriously, and to take further steps that
would guarantee easy access to routine breast screenings.
Have you ever wondered why a whole month is dedicated to the cause of
creating awareness for breast cancer? It’s simple – breast cancer is the
most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and is the second leading cause
of cancer death among the female folk. While breasts are an essential
and amazing part of the human body, breast cancer is their deadliest
enemy. As such, your breasts should be protected and taken care of.
Aside from routine personal examination, a solid health insurance cover
will go a long way to ensure that, in the event of breast cancer
detection, you won’t have to worry about the cost of adequate
It is disturbing that majority of Nigerians mostly ignore changes they
notice around their breasts. Indeed, it is this tendency that is
responsible for the preponderance of late diagnosis, a major setback in
the fight against breast cancer in Nigeria. For reasons bordering on
limited resources and negligence, most Nigerians show up at the hospital
when the cancer is already widespread and medical attention cannot
adequately salvage the situation. However, with a health plan that
facilitates routine breast screenings, early detection and effective
treatment would be possible.
What is breast cancer? Breast cancer starts when cells in the
breast begin to grow out of control, eventually forming a tumor that
can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. There are a number of
things that are perceived to increase the risk of breast cancer. But,
having one or more of the risk factors does not mean that an individual
will definitely get breast cancer, as more research is still needed to
prove the authenticity of these risk factors. What it means, however, is
that the person should be aware, and should take sufficient care.
What are the perceived risk factors? The perceived risk factors
include having uneven breasts, injury to the breast, under wired bras,
antibiotics use, pesticides, abortion and stress. Nevertheless, as
pointed out here, all these risk factors have not been fully proven to
cause breast cancer. For instance, for most women, it is normal to have
slightly uneven or asymmetrical breasts. Then, generally, doctors don’t
believe that an injury to the breast can lead to cancer. There is also
no scientific evidence to prove that under wired bras cause breast
cancer since constriction or applying pressure to an area of the body
does not make normal cells become cancerous. On the part of antibiotic
use, studies looking at whether antibiotic use could increase the risk
of breast cancer have shown conflicting results.
It is interesting to note that, though most studies found that
pesticides don’t increase cancer risk, an American report in 2008
confirmed that exposure to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, DDT early in
life may increase breast cancer risk. The good news, however, is that
DDT is no longer used today. Again, though researchers thought abortion
might increase the risk of cancer because of the effect of pregnancy on
breast cells, it doesn’t seem this is so; and, although stress can
occasion physical health problems, no definite link has been found
between stress and breast cancer.
Breast Cancer in Men: Though the men do not develop
milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still
develop cancer. However, cases of male breast cancer are very rare. In
fact, available data show that less than one percent of all breast
cancer cases occur in men, and only one in a thousand men will ever be
diagnosed with breast cancer.
What does it mean to be breast aware? This simply means that you
should know how your breasts normally look and feel at different times
of the month. If you notice a change in size, feel or shape that isn’t
normal for you, seek medical attention. This you can achieve by
routinely examining your breasts. However, for the women, you don’t need
to do this every day or even every week, as long as you know how your
breasts normally feel, and how that changes with your periods.
What can you do to reduce the risk of breast cancer? Though many
of the risk factors are perceived and have not really been proven, you
can at least play your part. Studies suggest that maintaining a healthy
weight, being physically active, and limiting your alcohol intake could
help. There is also the school of thought that posits that getting your
breasts regularly massaged may help prevent cancer by stimulating normal
cell growth and reproduction.
Finally, do not forget that early detection through regular screening
would heighten the probability of successful treatment. To be on the
safe side, a good health plan that can facilitate routine
age-appropriate and specific breast screening should be an integral part
of your health care.