Tackling Breast Cancer in Nigeria

Breast Cancer

By Benprince Ezeh

A medical technology company, Monitor Healthcare Ltd, screened more than 1,000 women for breast cancer from April to July because of the prevalence of this deadly health challenge in Nigeria.

It is generally known as the leading cause of deaths among women globally. Annually, it accounts for over 400,000 deaths globally. It is also the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths, coming behind lung, stomach, liver and colon cancers. But in Nigeria, breast cancer is the commonest cancer among women, and it is the number one killer cancer.

Available data shows that about 100, 000 new cancer cases are discovered annually in Nigeria. Many of these cases are breast cancers. Nigeria records as many as 40 deaths per day from breast cancer and the scourge accounts for the death of over 14, 000 women in Nigeria every year. Of the commonest cancers recorded from 1960 to 1980, six percent was breast cancer. It rose to 14. 8 percent from 1980 to 1985.  It has risen steadily since then.

Medical experts have attributed the high mortality rate of breast cancer to the late presentation of cases. In a country like Nigeria where millions of women are unaware of the disease and its symptoms, many of them do not visit the hospital until it is too late. Although medical experts are not too precise on what causes breast cancer, it is generally believed that a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors are responsible for its rise.

One in 20 cases of breast cancer is reported to be inherited. About one in 1,000 individuals is believed to carry the genes responsible for the disease. This means that if a family member is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is most likely by chance. In spite of this, women whose close relatives had cancer might be at risk.

The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast, but some other things like thickening or lump in the breast, this makes one feels different from the surrounding area. Inverting of the nipple (as a change from previous appearance, Nipple discharge or redness (especially any bloody discharge), Breast or nipple pain, Swelling of any part of the breast, Redness, Changes in the skin of the breast, Skin dimpling (peau d’orange) and Lymph node changes.

Felicita Ogbu
Felicita Ogbu

Felicita Ogbu, a doctor said that women have been counselled to pay closer attention to their breasts. “Experts prescribed the breast awareness practice, which involves getting to know what is normal for the breasts in terms of look and texture, so as to spot any changes and get them checked immediately.

“Starting from the age of 20, women are advised to embark on monthly self-examination of their breasts. It is believed that the monthly self-examination would help a woman become familiar with her own breasts, and she can easily tell if a new lump is developing. Women under the age of 50 are advised to have regular mammograms, usually every two years,” Ogbu said.

Toyosi Aibinuomo, a medical practitioner said that excess alcohol and tobacco can cause a tumour that can lead to breast cancer. He said this in a seminar in Ilorin. Aibinuomo said that breast cancer could affect both sexes. “No gender can be said to be immune to breast cancer as it affects both male and female, so, we all have to be cautious of what we consume. Everyone should be responsive to any change in his or her body, because the only way it can be cured is through early detection,” she said.

In 2017, more than 850 participants braved the rain to support the fight against cancer at the 4th edition of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE and Corporate Challenge in Lagos. The NSE Corporate Challenge is an annual, highly competitive and fun-filled 5-kilometre walk, jog and run competition designed to raise awareness and funds for the purchase of 37 Mobile Cancer Centres, MCCs, valued at $613,000 each.

Speaking at the event, Oscar N. Onyema, Chief Executive Officer NSE, said that it was amazing and emotional to see a lot of people turn out in the pouring rain to save lives. “Cancer doesn’t care about the weather, and neither do we. This year’s event attracted over 200 partner companies who are all in massive support for the cause to tackle the cancer scourge in Nigeria

“We remained focus in one of our CSR efforts of mobilizing funds for the purchase of Mobile Cancer Centres in the country. Through this initiative, we want to provide access for early detection and treatment of cancers so that people can live to their full potential. With your support, we believe we can save lives,” he said.

Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu
Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu

In the same vein, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, Ondo State First Lady and founder of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria, BRECAN, commended the NSE for galvanizing efforts to raise awareness and mobilize funds for the purchase of MCCs across the 36 states of the country. “We need increase in investments through public/private sector partnership that will improve the screening process for cancer in Nigeria, considering the huge costs involved.

“We call on the Federal Government to effect policies that will attract private capital investments into the healthcare sector, to tackle diseases like cancer,” she said.


Aug. 23, 2019 @ 18:40 GMT /


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