Coping with breast cancer

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Breast cancer is a type of cancer originating from the breast tissue, most commonly from the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply the ducts with milk.

While the overwhelming majority of human cases occur in women, male breast cancer can also occur.

Worldwide, breast cancer accounts for 22.9 per cent of all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) in women. In 2008, breast cancer caused 458,503 deaths worldwide (13.7 per cent of cancer deaths in women). Breast cancer is more than 100 times more common in women than in men, although men tend to have poorer outcomes due to delays in diagnosis.

Prognosis and survival rates for breast cancer vary greatly, depending on the cancer type, stage, treatment, and geographical location of the patient.

Breast cancer constitutes a major public health issue globally, with over one million new cases diagnosed annually, resulting in over 400,000 annual deaths and about 4.4 million women living with the disease. This year alone, the American Cancer Society predicted that over 200,000 people will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

It also affects one in eight women during their lives, and it is the commonest site-specific malignancy affecting women and the most common cause of cancer mortality in women worldwide.

Statistics available in Nigeria are largely unreliable because of many factors that have not allowed adequate data collection and documentation; but according to numbers provided by Globocan — an international agency for research on cancer — in 2002, breast cancer is responsible for about 16 per cent of all cancer-related deaths in Nigeria.

In a recent publication by Okobia et al (2006):”Late presentation of patients at advanced stages when little or no benefit can be derived from any form of therapy is the hallmark of breast cancer in Nigerian women.”  This is a worrisome trend and it appears to be the norm here.

According to an abstract published in the Nigerian journal  of  surgical  sciences  on breast cancer in young Nigerian women by C.E  Ohanaka,  breast cancer is rare in young women aged 30 and below.

There is a high degree of morbidity and mortality as well as physical and emotional stress in younger Nigerian women as is the case all over the world.

Risk factors

According to the American Centres for Disease Control, Research has found several risk factors that may increase a person’s chances of getting breast cancer. These include:

– Early menstrual period

– Late menopause

– Being older at the birth of your first child.

– Never giving birth

– Not breastfeeding

– Long-term use of hormone-replacement therapy

– Getting older

– Personal history of breast cancer or some non-cancerous breast diseases

– Family history of breast cancer (mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, or son)

– Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest

– Being overweight (increases risk for breast cancer after menopause).

– Having changes in the breast cancer-related genes BRCA1 or BRCA2.

– Drinking alcohol (more than one drink a day)

– Not getting regular exercise.

Having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease.

The characteristics of the cancer, as well as its staging, determine the treatment, which may include surgery, medications (hormonal therapy and chemotherapy), radiation and/or immunotherapy. Surgical treatment provides the single largest benefit, and to increase the likelihood of cure, several chemotherapy regimens are commonly given in addition. Radiation is used after breast-conserving surgery and substantially improves local relapse rates and in many circumstances, the overall survival.

Recent studies have shown that prolonging life after cancer therapy is possible. After cancer treatment, many survivors want to find ways to reduce the chances of their cancer coming back. Some worry that the way they eat, the stress in their lives, or their exposure to chemicals may put them at risk.

Cancer survivors find that this is a time when they take a good look at how they take care of themselves. You need therefore to think about making the following changes:

–         Quit smoking — smoking can increase the chances of getting cancer at the same site or another site.

–         Cut down on alcohol — drinking alcohol increases your chances of getting certain types of cancers.

–         Eat well. Healthy food choices and physical activity may help reduce the risk of cancer or its recurrence.

–         Get to and stay at a healthy weight.

–         Exercise and stay active.

–         Go for a detoxification programme

The typical cancer treatment will involve removing the cancerous cells, followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation. Many people are noticing that it is the chemotherapy that kills the patient faster. They explain that their relation or friend got worse after the chemotherapy. This may be true because the chemotherapy drugs not just kill the cancer cells, they also kill healthy cells as well.  An effective cancer treatment, therefore, would be to follow up chemotherapy treatment with a detoxification programme to remove the residual toxins and leftover chemotherapy drugs still in the body system.

At the Mart life Detoxification clinic, the first Modern Mayr medicine clinic in Africa, detoxification is at the core of our practice in helping to prolong life after chemotherapy.