Preventing Breast Cancer

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As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Breast and Gynae Centre, an arm of the Reddington Hospital Group, says prevention is key to tackling the disease. Martins Ifijeh writes

It is no longer news that one of the health issues currently ravaging the Nigeria is cancer, which unfortunately kills at least 10 Nigerians per hour or 240 persons per day. What seems to be the news, according to available statistics is that this figure will double in the nearest decade if nothing is done to reduce the disease which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said was preventable.

While over two million Nigerians are living with one form of cancer or the other, a WHO report shows that well over 100,000 new cases of cancers are diagnosed yearly in Nigeria, out of which 80,000 of those affected die, especially from the commonest cancer types in the country due to lack of proper awareness on prevention or early detection, or lack of facilities for treatment.

For instance, if the data from the 2014 national cancer survey is anything to go by, it means breast cancer kills over 40 Nigerian women daily, prostate cancer kills at least 26 Nigerian men daily, while cervical cancer kills about 26 Nigerian women every day. Experts also believed these figures must have significantly increased in 2017.
Available information suggests that this figure will snowball into an uncontrollable health issue for the country within the next decade because of various identifiable factors which experts say must be looked at if the country must win the war against the disease.

But while breast cancer is arguably the commonest cancer among Nigerian women, representing one in four of all cancer in women, experts believe little is being talked about it, especially since many women are still coming down with it.

It is in tackling this obvious gap that the Breast and Gynae Centre, Lagos, an arm of the Reddington Hospital Group, organised a walk recently in commemoration of the World Health Organisation’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) to bring awareness to Nigerian women and girls on the importance of breast cancer screening, self examination and what to do to avoid risk factors associated with the disease.

Speaking during the walk, the Occupational Health Physician, Reddington Hospital Group, Dr. Tokunbo Babajide said recent data suggests that one in eight Nigerian women will have breast cancer in their lifetime, adding that to avoid this, every woman must be aware of what to do to prevent the disease.

She said the Breast and Gynae Centre keyed into the WHO initiative in order to speak up on the importance of screening, regular check ups, self breast examination, as well as avoid risky behaviours that predisposes to not only breast cancer, but other types of the mad cells.

According to her, the only way to avoid late presentation of breast cancer was for women to know before hand when to check themselves for the cells or its predisposition.

“Early detection means early intervention. If you don’t treat early, it becomes difficult. Treatment of breast cancer runs into millions of naira, but if it can be detected early, it means it can be removed early without it spreading. Chances of survival are low if the cancer is presented late.

“Considering we are a developing country where majority are living below poverty line, we can say out of the one in eight Nigerian women that will have breast cancer, majority of them will not be able to get treatment because they will not be able to afford treatment.

“That is why we are consistently advocating that people present early. But unfortunately, early presentation is still very low in the country due to attitude. And that is the reason for our campaign. Stakeholders, media and the government should keep talking about breast cancer while encouraging women to get screened,” she said.
Babajide said once a breast cancer is found in a woman, hopefully if it hasn’t spread to the breast, it could be removed while the woman starts radiotherapy, noting that if it has already spread, the person would still require radiotherapy.

“But in developed countries the treatments are well advanced but much more expensive. How many Nigerians can afford it in these countries? Our best bet is to prevent it.”

She said breast cancer disrupts not only the woman but the family and the society. She also explained that as part of efforts to contribute to the society, the Breast and Gynae Centre was offering free breast cancer screening till the end of the year to vulnerable/poor women.

On the risk factors, she said the fact that the person is a woman was already a risk factor. “Those who have had it in their families are at a high risk of it. If one or two people have had it in the family, then it puts you at risk. So women of such families should get screened often.”

She said sedentary lifestyle was also a contributing factors. “Though we have seen people who exercise and still come down with it, those who do not exercise are at a higher risk. A poor lifestyle, obesity, oral contraceptives puts one at risk of abreast cancer.”

On how the Breast and Gynae Centre is contributing to tackling the disease in the country, she said the centre is equipped with latest technology for screening and treatment. “Apart from our 2D machine, we have acquired the 3D mammogram which is able to detect cancer, much more better. We have the 3 D A-bus also, which is very effective.
“What we are doing here is to invest in breast cancer prevention and treatment. If cancer is picked before time, the breast is removed, the woman takes chemotherapy and can live a long time. And our machine can pick the tiniest of cells even before it shows up as a lump in the breast.

On her part, the Practice Manager, Breast and Gynae Centre, Mrs. Neye Akinola, said over 300 persons participated in the walk, and she believed they have in turn reached thousands of Nigerians through the walk.

She said the Breast and Gynae Centre is a stand alone centre even though its birthed by the Reddington Hospital Group. The Centre is targeted towards a wider range of audience. I can tell you the hospital is repositioning itself to better appeal to the rich, middle class and the poor.

‘’We have two of the latest technologies in the world. We have the automated breast ultrasound and the tomo-mammography. It’s a 3D mammography, an A-list screening mammography used abroad to detect breast cancer cells. It supersedes the regular breast ultrasound or the 2D mammogram. Then there is A-bus, which screens for women below 40 years. If you are above 40 you go on the Tomo. But cutting edge technology advises that we have both the tomo and the A-bus.”

She said with Tomo, rather than seeing the breast slides from a frontal view, it can do a 360, such that wherever the cancer cells are, it would detect it.

In an earlier interview, the Chief Executive Officer, Reddington Hospital Group, Dr. Yemi Onabowale, described the Breast and Gynae Centre as a one-stop women’s health facility dedicated to caring for women throughout all stages of their lives.

“The idea is to offer the most advanced, comprehensive and personalised care available. And then put everything under one roof. This is what is lacking in the country, even though there are hospitals focusing on women. Ours is built to focus on everything woman.

“This centre will give an all-round services in advanced breast care, gynaecological care, primary care, and other specialties such as cardiology, general surgery, ear, eye, nose and throat care,” he added.
He said all equipments at the centre were advanced technologies with the right expertise carefully selected from the United Kingdom, United States and Nigeria to man them and manage the centre.

“Apart from the world class facilities at the Breast and Gynae Centre, Reddington Group, has pioneered a lot of achievements in this country, among which is the fact that we were the first hospital to do a closure of a hole in the heart by a non surgical procedure. We were the first to establish a fully integrated radiology centre, among others,” he added.