By Nsamba Rachel Louis
Cancer is one scourge that has dealt deadly blows to different people around the world irrespective of race, religion or status. Nonetheless, breast cancer has been identified as one of the most common, even as women are the most afflicted.
According to an online resource, www. Cancer. Net, breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women, comprising almost one-third of all malignancies in females. It is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer mortality, and it is the leading cause of death for Nigeria women between the ages of 14 to 94 years, but 70 per cent of patients are between 26 and 50 years old. The lifetime risk of a woman developing invasive breast cancer is 12.6 %.
The death rate for breast cancer has been slowly declining over the past decade, and the incidence has remained level since 1988 after increasing steadily for nearly 50 years.
It has also been stated that 25% to 30% of women with invasive breast cancer will die of their disease. But this statistic, as grim as it is, also means that 70% to 75% of women with invasive breast cancer will die of something other than their breast cancer. Hence, a diagnosis of breast cancer, even invasive breast cancer, is not necessarily the ‘‘sentence of death’’.
Mortality rates are highest in the very young (less than age 35) and in the very old (greater than age 75).4 It appears that the very young have more aggressive disease and that the very old may not be treated aggressively or may have co morbid disease that increases breast cancer fatality.
Research also indicate that 95% of breast cancers are carcinomas, i.e., they arise from breast epithelial elements.
Breast cancer incidence is highest in North America and Northern Europe and lowest in Asia and Africa.
Thus, environmental and/or lifestyle factors appear to be important determinants of breast cancer risk, Gender is by far the greatest risk factor. Breast cancer occurs 100 times more frequently in women than men. In women, incidence rates of breast cancer rise sharply with age until ages 45 to 50, when the rise becomes less steep.
This change in slope probably reflects the impact of hormonal change (menopause) that occurs about this time. By ages 75 to 80, the curve actually flattens and then decreases.
The Consensus Development Conference on the Treatment of Early-Stage Breast Cancer has concluded that breast conservation treatment is an appropriate method of primary therapy for the majority of women with Stage I and Stage II breast cancers. This treatment is preferable in many cases because it provides survival equivalent to total mastectomy and auxiliary dissection while preserving the breast.
Subsequent studies have confirmed that there is no difference in long-term survival between surgical removal of the breast (mastectomy) and excision of the tumor mass and radiation therapy to residual breast tissue (breast conservation therapy).
Breast cancer is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in women, and it is a major burden especially on women as the cost of treatment runs into millions of Naira.
Also worrisome is the fact that the number of cancer care centres are very limited in the country, found only in few cities.
Experts have also strongly advised that regular screening is very important, as early dictation helps greatly in the treatment.
Nsamba Rachel Louis
Department of Mass Communication,
University of Mkar, Mkar Gboko, Benue State, Nigeria
…Sources of information-
www. Cancer. Net
www. Medical news today. Com
www. Cancer center. Com