Cancer: Don’t Be Wicked to Your Breast, Oncologist Tells Women

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Martins Ifijeh

Following the high incidence of breast cancer in Nigeria, a Radiation Oncologist with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Prof. Gbadebo Awosanya, has called on women to eschew hash treatment of their breasts, as they are delicate tissues that require utmost care and pampering. Awosanya said placing the breasts under tight braziers for about 12 hours every day was a disservice, adding that braziers with metallic lining could be among the predisposing factors for breast cancer.

Awosanya stated this in his presentation at the unveiling of Nigeria’s first Mobile Mammography Coach by Lilly Women’s Health in Lagos recently. He said women should wear braziers with cotton fabric, and in most cases they should do without wearing braziers so that their breasts can get enough air and space to flourish.

According to him, “Husbands should make sure their fingers are well cut before they caress their wives’ breasts so that they don’t injure them. Breasts are tissues that must be worshipped and preserved, otherwise the husbands won’t see them to enjoy in the future if they don’t pamper them now.

“Women should do self-examination often to check for lumps, inverted nipples, injuries or hardening of the breast, and if any of these are noticed, diagnosis should be made as soon as possible.”

He added, “Failure to follow these routines could be regarded as wickedness to the breast.”

Awosanya, who is popularly referred to as “the breast man”, said there were now increased cases of breast cancer in Nigeria, adding that every minute, 10 women die of the scourge in the country, while eight out of nine cases of breast cancer in Nigeria are not traceable to family history, hence factors that predisposes women to it must be avoided.

“Living under power lines (high tension cables) is a predisposing factor, the erection of masts where people live could also be a factor, poor nutrition, among other factors could dispose women to breast cancer,” he said.

He however decried that despite the alarming rate of the prevalence, Nigeria still lack a model for cancer treatment.

“A senator in Nigeria receives at least N37 million monthly, yet we are unable to buy functional cancer machines to tackle the growing cases seen every day. There are now 3D mammography machines to detect breast cancer cells two years before they even start showing up, but we still don’t have them here.

“Cancer management is zero in Nigeria. We pray our relatives don’t come up with cancer. Who ever really want to treat cancer should go to the United States or other developed countries where they can be managed thoroughly. But how many people can afford it? That is why we keep pushing for prevention and early detection,” he said.

He also emphasised that about one per cent of breast cancers occur in males; hence men with gynaecomastia (developed breasts, as in the case of some overweight men) should also examine their breasts for lumps or access mammography machines.

A Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Dr. Omolola Salako said it was painful that despite over 100,000 Nigerian women suffering from breast cancer at a time, the country only has 16 oncologists with only eight cancer machines, adding that to worsen the situation, many doctors were leaving the country for job fulfilment in other countries.

Salako stated, “For me, I am no longer having job fulfilment because most cancer patients who come to us for diagnosis or treatment often do so when the cancers are in advanced stages. How do you treat someone with stage four cancer? It doesn’t make sense they present late. It is unacceptable. It means we have not done enough to sensitise Nigerians on early detection. As an oncologist, I see patients battling for life, all because they are accessing the right treatment late.

“When presented early, it is most certain that the patient will be treated successfully. But what are we to do when cases are brought in at the late stages. Nowhere in the world where guarantee can be given for the treatment of stage four cancer.”
While noting that some Nigerians were involved in championing awareness for early cancer detection, she noted that if Nigerian celebrities lend their voices to the issue, it would go a long way.

“I have been practically pushed out of a market I went to/to preach early diagnosis, because they said I was a bringer of bad news, but three tweets each from our celebrities can help in sensitising Nigerians on the benefits of early diagnosis,” she said.
She commended Lilly Women’s Health for bringing the mobile mammography machine to Nigeria, adding that this will help reduce breast cancer in the country.

On her part, the Founder, Lilly Women’s Health, Dr. Lilian Ebuoma, who is a Harvard University trained Diagnostic Breast Radiologist, said Nigeria started fighting cancer in 1985, about the same time US started, but it was worrisome that Nigeria had still not gotten it right in the management of cancer.

“So I told myself since the Nigerian government is not doing enough to address cancer, good people have to do something. That is why we have brought in Nigeria’s first ever Mobile Mammography Coach. This machine will be taken to the door steps of Nigerians so that it will encourage them to do testing for breast cancer. We will go to market places, junctions, among others,” Ebuoma said.

The cancer specialist, who singlehandedly funded the initiative, said many factors were responsible for Nigerians not presenting on time; “creating awareness is one thing, action is another thing. Fear, myths and misconceptions, misdiagnosis, and poverty are some of the reasons people are not presenting on time.”

She said while lifestyle modification, nutritional habits, among others, have been fingered as some of the disposing factors to cancer, Nigerians should make conscious effort to live healthy.

According to her, “We are becoming adaptive to junks in Nigeria. Elites in the US eat these foods consciousness that their healthcare system, is working and they have somewhere to go to, but Nigerians mimicking their feeding habit have forgotten that they have nowhere to go, or money to treat themselves, or have no good cancer management system in the country.”

She said Turkey had 28 million people with 550 mammographic facilities, but Nigerians has 188 million citizens with few machines.
In her own contribution, the wife of Lagos State Governor, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, said cancer does not just happen since it spends years in the body before it manifests, adding that with early detection, its incubation period can be severed.

Ambode, who was represented by Medical Director, Shomolu General Hospital, Dr. Claudiana Sanwo-Olu, said the unveiling of the mammography coach will help women prevent breast cancer before it starts presenting.