Dr John Alozie, an Oncologist with National Hospital, Abuja, has advised women to conduct regular self-examination of their breast to prevent late dictation of breast cancer.
Alozie, who gave the advice in Abuja, noted that breast cancer was common and the second main cause of cancer deaths among women.
He said that awareness of the symptoms and the need for screening are important ways of reducing the risk.
“The first symptom of breast cancer is a lump or thickening of the breast and changes to the skin or the nipple. Breast cancer is genetic, but some lifestyle factors, such as alcohol intake, make it more likely to happen. Many breast lumps are not cancerous. After puberty, a woman’s breast consists of fat, connective tissue, and thousands of lobules, tiny glands that produce milk for breast-feeding. Tiny tubes, or ducts, carry the milk toward the nipple. In cancer, the body’s cells multiply uncontrollably. It is the excessive cell growth that causes cancer. Breast cancer usually starts in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply them with milk and from there, it can spread to other parts of the body,” he said.
According to him, women who have had breast cancer before are more likely to have it again, compared with those who have no history of the disease.
He added that having some types of benign or non-cancerous breast lumps increases the chance of developing cancer later on.
“Being exposed to estrogen for a longer period appears to increase the risk of breast cancer. This could be due to starting periods earlier or entering menopause later than average. Between these times, estrogen levels are higher. Breast-feeding, especially for over one year, appears to reduce the chance of developing breast cancer, possibly because pregnancy followed by breastfeeding reduces exposure to estrogen. Women who are overweight or have obesity after menopause may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, possibly due to higher levels of estrogen. High sugar intake may also be a factor. A higher rate of regular alcohol consumption appears to play a role. Studies have shown that women who consume more than three drinks a day have a 1.5 times higher risk,” he said.
Alozie also said that undergoing radiation treatment for a cancer that is not breast cancer increases the risk of breast cancer later in life.
He said that the use of hormone replacement therapy and oral birth control pills have been linked to breast cancer, due to increased levels of estrogen.