Sunday, 20 March 2016

Causes of Breast Cancer in Nigeria

Causes of Breast Cancer in Nigeria ,“Breast cancer is a malignant (cancerous) growth that begins in the tissues of the breast. Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled way. It is the most common cancer in women, but it can also appear in men. According to Professor O. Olopade, a Breast Cancer specialist and director of the Cancer Risk Clinic in the departments of medicine and human genetics at the University of Chicago Hospitals:”
The five-year survival rate for breast cancer patients in the United States exceeds 85 percent, in Nigeria it is a dismal 10 percent; Cancer awareness, even among physicians, and much more so among women at risk, needs an enormous boost in Nigeria,"

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Epidemiology of Breast Cancer in Nigeria:

Breast Cancer constitutes a major public health issue globally with over 1 million new cases diagnosed annually, resulting in over 400,000 annual deaths and about 4.4 million women living with the disease. It also affects one in eight women during their lives.It is the commonest site specific malignancy affecting women and the most common cause of cancer mortality in women worldwide. It is also found in men but not very common. Statistics available in Nigeria are largely unreliable because of many factors that have not allowed adequate data collection and documentation; but according to numbers provided by Globocan in 2002, Breast Cancer is responsible for about 16% of all cancer related deaths in Nigeria. In a recent publication by Okobia et al (2006):”Late presentation of patients at advanced stages when little or no benefit can be derived from any form of therapy is the hallmark of breast cancer in Nigerian women.” This is indeed a worrisome trend and it appears to be the norm in Nigeria.

Causes of Breast Cancer in Nigeria

There are many risk factors that have been associated with Breast Cancer: Being a female is one of the factors we really cannot do much about, the chance of getting it increases with the age of the woman, the older women get the more chances of getting Breast Cancer. As with any other genetic diseases, a history of Breast Cancer in close relatives especially in mothers and siblings has been associated with the risks of getting  Breast Cancer ,early onset of menstrual periods before the age of 12 years or reaching menopause after the age of 55 years has both been associated with risks of developing Breast cancer. These can be explained by prolong period of Estrogen exposure in females. Other risks include being overweight, using hormone replacement therapy, taking birth control pills, drinking alcohol, not having children or having your first child after age 35 or having dense breasts.

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Signs & Symptoms: It is troubling to know that majority of our females largely ignore changes they might notice around their Breasts; this is indeed very common in our country. Some common signs seen in Breast Cancer such as: Breast Lump which is usually painless, change in size or shape of the breast or discharge from a nipple is largely ignored. It is however important to know that early detection and prompt treatment is the key to surviving this deadly disease.

Diagnosis &Treatment: Surgery, Radiation treatment and many new and advanced therapies are now available in the developed world and they have contributed to the good prognosis seen in the western world. Many more patients are living longer, but the reverse is the case in our country. Access to care is limited and majority of these advanced therapies are no where to be found.

Causes of Breast Cancer in Nigeria

Factors to consider:

·         Routine age appropriate and specific Breast screening is an integral part of healthcare system in most advanced countries allowing for early detection and intervention; this is largely responsible for the longer survival periods in these countries.

·         Diagnosis is late in Nigeria, by the time most people show up in the hospital, the cancer is already widespread. Usually at this stage; nothing medical or surgical can help.

·         Treatment cost is prohibitive, most especially in Nigeria where the annual GDP is about 7%. Healthcare spending has not been a priority of our government.

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Causes of Breast Cancer in Nigeria
Looking Ahead:

It is obvious that modern technology cannot be made available to all women in Nigeria in an effort to increase routine Breast Screenings; however, Health Education encouraging our women to conduct routine: “Breast Self Examination” (BSE).a simple step that will reveal any changes that might require the attention of a qualified professional to determine if it is indeed Breast Cancer or not should be our approach.  These women should be educated on the importance of reporting such changes to their healthcare providers. For women who have access to modern technology in the cities, I will encourage monthly BSE and a visit to your providers to map out a strategy in which you will have your annual mammogram and other female related screenings done regularly and at the appropriate time.

Causes of Breast Cancer in Nigeria

Reaching out to the women in the rural areas might be a challenge, however integrating Breast Health Education with already existing preventive programs in these rural areas through a working relationship with the numerous religious organizations and nonprofit groups who already have access to these areas will be a step in the right direction. Another effective tool is the media; it is known that many homes in Nigeria do have transistor radios that can broadcast “Breast Awareness” messages into these areas.


Breast cancer treatment and management is a big challenge in Nigeria largely due to limited resources as discussed earlier on. It is high time our government focuses on these largely treatable diseases by providing the necessary funds that will make the establishment of screening centers nationwide a priority. On our part as citizens, I am appealing to us all; call your sisters, mothers, cousins, aunties, nieces, friends on this Breast Cancer Awareness month and ask them if they have been screened for Breast Cancer. You might have saved a life and contributed your own part as we try to defeat “This biggest Cancer killer of Nigerian women”.

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