Mimi sat in shock as the words of her doctor kept ringing in her head. “Your test results confirm that you have cancer of the left breast. I’m really sorry…”.
Fear gripped her heart at the thought of leaving her beloved husband and two preteenagers behind. She was just in her mid-forties and had done her best to maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet. How did this happen?
She remembered that during the pandemic lock down, she had noticed a slight change in the colour of the skin overlying her left breast. Although she had taken her time to examine every part of both breasts, she never felt any lump or pain. Thus, she didn’t think much of it until shortly after the new year celebration when she started feeling some discomfort within her chest. She reported to the hospital where some tests and biopsies were carried out, revealing a stage 3 cancer of her left breast. She was devastated.
BREAST CANCER: A WORLDWIDE PROBLEM
Worldwide, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed life-threatening cancer in women*. In many less-developed countries like Nigeria, it is the LEADING CAUSE of cancer death in women.
WHO IS AT RISK OF HAVING BREAST CANCER?
▪️Increasing Age and Female Gender:
are established risk factors. Sporadic breast cancer is relatively uncommon among women younger than 40 years. However, te risk increases significantly thereafter.
▪️A Positive Family History of Breast Cancer:
This is the most widely recognized risk factor for breast cancer. You are 4 times more likely to have breast cancer if her mother and sister are affected, and about 5 times more likely if you have two or more first-degree relatives with breast cancer.
Your risk is also increases if you have a single first-degree relative with breast cancer, especially if that relative was diagnosed at an early age (≤50 years).
1) Late age at first pregnancy
3) Early onset of menses, and
4) Late age of menopause
These 4 factors are related to prolonged exposure to elevated levels of female sex hormones. They’ve all been consistently associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
▪️Having A Previous History of Breast Cancer:
This is linked to a 3- to 4-fold increased risk of a second primary cancer in the second breast.
▪️Lifestyle and Dietary Factors
Diets that are rich in grains, fruits, and vegetables are thought to be protective against breast cancer. Low calorie diets and diet low in saturated fats; and in alcohol also have possible protective propensity.
Postmenopausal women have an increased risk of breast cancer, especially if they have any of the following :
– Adult weight gain of 20-25 kg above body weight at age 18
– Adopting the Western diet (high energy content in the form of animal fats and refined carbohydrates)
– A sedentary lifestyle
– Regular, moderate consumption of alcohol (Eg. 3-5 alcoholic beverages per week)
▪️Environmental Risk Factors
– Tobacco smoke (both active and passive exposure)
– Dietary (eg, charred and processed meats)
– Alcohol consumption
– Environmental carcinogens (eg, exposure to pesticides, radiation, and environmental and dietary estrogens).
Of these environmental exposures, only high doses of ionizing radiation to the chest area, particularly during puberty, have been unequivocally linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in adulthood.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF BREAST CANCER?
Early breast cancers may not show any symptom. Pain and discomfort are typically not present. If you discover a lump in your breast, the following may imply the possible presence of breast cancer:
▪️Changes in breast shape or size
▪️Changes in the skin overlying the breast
▪️A lump in the armpit
▪️Recent nipple inversion or skin change, or abnormalities in the nipple
▪️Nipple discharge, particularly if blood-stained
HOW CAN YOU AVOID BREAST CANCER?
There’s no definite way to avoid breast cancer. However, you can largely reduce your risk of having breast cancer if you:
🔹MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT AND DIET
If you have a healthy BMI (body mass index which is your weight divided by the square of your height; this should be between 18 and 24.9), work to maintain it.
If you need to shed some weight, ask your doctor about healthy ways to do this.
Limit the number of calories you eat daily. Gradually increase the amount of exercis you engage in per day.
🔹BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight. This, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer. Most healthy adults should aim for moderate aerobic activity of at least 150 minutes a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week.
🔹 AVOID ALCOHOL INTAKE
The more alcohol you take, the higher your risk of developing breast cancer. Even small amounts increase your risk. The best option is to stay off alcohol completely.
Studies have shown that the longer you breast-feed as a lactating mother, the greater the protective effect against breast cancer.
🔹LIMIT YOUR USE OF HORMONE THERAPY
Combination hormone therapy may increase a woman’s risk of having breast cancer. If you must use combination hormone therapy, let your doctor monitor how long you’re taking the drugs.
🔹AVOID RADIATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION:
as much as possible. Laboratory investigations like CT scans and X-rays use high doses of radiation. Some research have linked breast cancer to accumulated exposure to radiation over one’s lifetime. Reduce your exposure by having such tests only when absolutely necessary.
🔹ABIDE IN CHRIST
The Holy Bible tells us that Christ “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” Matthew 8:17 KJV.
If you have a high risk of having breast cancer (say, due to a positive family history), you can claim your covenant rights in Christ over this infirmity of breast cancer. Because Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, we can boldly stand on God’s promise of healing and divine health.
In summary, breast cancer is a huge public health problem which
[*Excerpts from Medscape]