Next to heart disease, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Nigeria and the second leading cause of death for women worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation(WHO), Nigeria is estimated to have 350,000 new diagnosed cases annually which WHO further stated will increase to about 500,000 by the year 2020.
In 2010, breast cancer accounted for 8 percent of cancer deaths and about one percent of all deaths. Breast cancer, (malignant breast neoplasm), medical experts say is cancer originating from breast tissue, most commonly from the inner lining of milk ducts or lobules that supply the ducts with milk..
In many ways, breast cancer impacts everyone. October is recognised as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, geared towards highlighting means and ways to either prevent, or seek care for the disease.
In the view of Prof. Isaac Folorunsho Adewole, a consultant obstetrician and a gynaecologist, University College Hospital, Ibadan, and Vice Chancellor of the institution, over 10,000 Nigerian women die of cervical and breast cancer annually with 80 per cent of cases presently in advanced state where little and nothing can be done.
“Cancer is alarming in Nigeria because we have not put in place measures to detect and treat cancers at pre-cancer and early cancer stages. If detected on time, at least 40 percent can be treated successfully.
Breast cancer is not always detectable with the naked eye, although a regular monthly examination could reveal early signs such as lumps or discharge but the symptoms are often hidden within the tissues, it is only through the use of an appropriate diagnostic tool that any type of cancer can be identified”, he added.
Most medical experts agree that in order to maximise the potential for prevention of breast cancer, early diagnosis is vital. Mammography plays a central role in early detection as it can show changes in the breast that are suspicious for cancer before a patient or physician can feel them or see them.
Early detection can definitely help detect 85 to 90 per cent of all breast cancers, even before the lump in the breast is felt. It is therefore advised that women above 30 years avail themselves of the service once a year while those with history of cancer in the family should do the screening twice a year.
A mammogram is an x_ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best method to detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Diagnostic mammography is used to evaluate a patient with abnormal clinical findings, such as a breast lump or lumps, nipple discharge, etc., that have been detected by the woman or her doctor.
Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. Women aged 50 to74 years; need to have a screening mammogram every two years. Those aged 40–49 years should consult their doctor about when and how often you should have a screening mammogram.
This makes the efforts of organisations such as the MTN Foundation, MTNF, the corporate social investment vehicle of MTN Nigeria, very timely. As part of its corporate social investments initiatives, it is currently at the forefront of efforts to curtail the malady.
To date, MTNF has established six mammography centres within governmental hospitals in the six geopolitical zones of the country to help prevent breast cancer in women of reproductive ages.
Mammography centres are in operation at the General Hospital Marina, Lagos; the Specialist Hospital, Irrua, Edo State; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; Uthman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, Federal Medical Centre, Nguru, Yobe; and Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja, Kogi State.
The mammography centres reduce the distance women have to travel to get regular screening as well as the time that they have to sacrifice to undergo screening.
In essence, these centres make it much more convenient and affordable for women to undergo regular screening and due to the convenience, medical practitioners are at an advantage in advising their formerly reluctant patients to engage in this screening as the availability and affordability makes more women more disposed to it. This will ultimately reduce the high level of mortality resulting from the scourge of breast cancer.