Experts tell SHARON OREMICHEN that women who have abortion in the first three months of their pregnancies are exposed to breast cancer disease
With more women being diagnosed of breast cancer disease, oncologists, who specialise in the treatment of tumour and cancer, acknowledged the danger to women, stressing that young women are becoming victims of breast cancer due to ignorance, abortion, exposure to cosmetics, consumption of dangerous chemicals in junk food and unhealthy lifestyle.
With the percentage of cancer patients now on the high, the specialists in the field opined that poverty, high cost of treatment, lack of medical facilities and personnel are making matter worse for victims, calling on the government to acquire modern medical facilities for its hospitals and to subsidise the cost of treatment of the disease.
Head, Oncology and Radiotherapy Department, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Prof. Remi Ajekigbe, said breast cancer is on the increase due to lack of awareness about the disease among women and poor diet.
“Awareness is a major factor responsible for the increase in breast cancer cases. A lot of women are not educated on the disease, so even when the signs and symptoms are present, they can hardly notice them. Awareness campaign on the disease will help early detection and treatment,” Ajekigbe said, adding that population increase could be responsible for the wide spread of the disease.
“Twenty years ago, Nigeria population’s was not what it is today; population increase could increase the spread of diseases including breast cancer.
“Increased population could affect the social life of the people. The social factor is crucial because we tend to imbibe a number of habits that are detrimental to our health. For instance, smoking and poor diet are factors that have increased the cases of breast cancer. We eat a lot of chemicals, especially our younger ones. Those processed junks are not good for health. Its accumulation over a period of time could lead to various types of cancer. Cosmetics used to enhance beauty also have concentrated chemicals that could become cancerous when they enter the body system. Skin beauty products make women look good and attractive but they could have negative effect later in life. Perfumes also could increase the risk as some of them are also cancerous,” Ajekigbe said.
The oncologist also explained that the facilities available for the treatment of the disease are not adequate, pointing out that epileptic supply of electricity in the country contribute to the high cost of treatment of the disease.
Speaking further on the disease, Ajekigbe said early detection reduced difficulties experienced in its treatment.
“A lot of prominent people died of breast cancer because it was detected at the advanced stage. Self breast examination is the key to early detection of the disease. Every woman should understand the simple test to detect cancer in the breasts,” he advised.
Another cancer specialist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Dr. Abiodun Popoola, said abortion in the first three months of pregnancy increased a woman’s risk of having breast cancer.
“Towards the end of the first trimester, the hormone balance in the woman’s body changes, the oestrogen levels drop and the levels of others rise. Differentiation and maturation begins and continues until the child is born.
“But when an abortion occurs at the early stages, this process is suddenly cut short and this greatly increases the risk of that woman or lady having breast cancer. Sadly, 90 per cent of abortions are done at this stage. It however varies in different women,” he said.
When our correspondent visited some breast cancer clinics in Lagos State, patients narrated tales of pains and frustration. Mrs. Kehinde Olabisi, who is battling with the disease, told our correspondent who was with her during one of her chemotherapy sessions at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, that she would have committed suicide but for her husband support. Olabisi who is in her early 40s said she was diagnosed with the disease in 2011, lamenting the loss of one of her breasts and inability to function fully as a wife.
Olabisi said, “You do not want to imagine the psychological trauma of living with just one breast. A lot of women would prefer to die with the cancer than to lose a breast. But since losing a breast was the only way to save my life, I had to accept it. I have been battling with this illness since 2011, I removed the lumps first to delay cutting off the breast but it did not work so they removed it three months ago. I have not recovered from the experience.
“Breast cancer is a dangerous disease affecting women because it drains them physically, financially, psychologically and emotionally. You no longer feel good about yourself it is like you have no self worth anymore,” a tearful Olabisi said.
Olabisi, who was in the hospital with her husband, added that the doctors warned that chemotherapy treatment after surgery was crucial to full recovery.
“Chemotherapy is a difficult process that involves endurance. It would scrape off all the hair on the victim’s body. After my first experience, I woke up and saw my hair falling off on the pillow. It took away my appetite and I became allergic to perfume. I had sores on my body and this is how I feel every time. But I thank God for my husband who has stood by me. I could not have got this far without him.”
But the road to recovery has been a demanding one. To pay the bill, Olabisi and her husband sold a house and took N4m bank loan to pay for treatment.
She said, “Victims of breast cancer need love to pull through. They need people around them all the time. Absence of these factors could lead to death.”
A survivor who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity said the rate of survival could only be improved upon if all women did constant self-check, adding that she was saved because she detected the lump early.
She said, “I was 54-year-old when I discovered I had breast cancer. I was having my bath when I noticed the lump. I was not too sure what it was so I went to a doctor and they told me it was cancerous. That was the beginning of the battle.
“I started treatment in a hospital in Abeokuta and when it was beyond the hospital’s ability, I travelled to the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, where doctors told me that what saved me was early detection. It was an eye opener in my home. Because of my case, my sister and her sister in-law went for screening and realised they had lumps and they sought treatment immediately, they all survived the deadly disease. I advise all the women who are suffering from breast cancer not to give up. They should trust in God for their treatment. The government should also help by subsidising the cost of treatment. It is too expensive.”
Also, Mrs. Nimota Odukoya, another breast cancer patient, said the cost of treatment scared many victims.
She said, “Only victims with enough financial strength to treat breast cancer survive. If you have breast cancer and you cannot pay for test, drugs or your chemotherapy, then you may not survive. It is the cost of treatment that is leading to the death of many patients. When you are told that you need N500,000 to start treatment and you have just N20,000, you have no option than to go back home, especially if you don’t have property to sell.
“I have spent about N2 million treating the disease . I pay N45,000 every three weeks for chemotherapy, and N20,000 on drugs per week. A lot of women who started treatment died along the way because they could not afford the cost.
“Government should help sufferers by subsidising the cost of cancer treatment. Government is campaigning for women to go for breast cancer screening in hospitals, but when you actually have it, the amount needed to treat it is unaffordable for 80 per cent of Nigerians,”
Culled from; Punch