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Health News of Monday, 21 November 2011

Source: kojo cobba

The Breast Certainly Needs Support

“The Breast Certainly Needs Support” – Fighting Breast Cancer

Breasts come in all shapes and sizes and most women will admit that shopping for an ideal bra is probably one of the most frustrating experiences. These shapes and sizes are dictated to a large extent by the fatty tissue contained within. Over the years, the picture of “a good looking” breast has gone through cycles and currently many of us are swayed by the “implant inspired” ideal. We will go to all lengths to mimic what the stars and magazines portray not taking even a minute to know a bit about our own breasts. My advice to you today is – “Woman and Man know thy breast, in the interest of healthy breasts”. Yes breast cancer is over a hundred times more common in women, but it may also occur in males with an even poorer outcome due to delays in diagnoses.
If you do not know what your “normal” breast looks like then you will not be able to tell if changes occur and it may be too late in the day when cancer is detected.
Know these about your breast
• The size and shape
• Any areas that appear swollen
• What the skin looks like – any colour changes, any skin changes such as areas looking like an orange peel/skin, ulcers/sores
• Consistency or what the breast feels like
• Is the nipple pointed or retracted. Is there a nipple discharge?
Risk factors for breast cancer
We still do not know exactly what causes breast cancer but certain things have been associated with these cancers and they include:
• Age – the older you are the greater the risk
• Family History – our risk increased when a close family member has the cancer
• Personal History – when we have cancer in one breast the chance of it occurring in the other or even the same breast is increased
• Menstruation – Having first menses at an early age and reaching menopause late
• Race – white women at an increased risk but blacks have more aggressive varieties
• Alcohol use and fatty or cholesterol-laden foods increase the risk
• Having no children or the first child after 30yrs increases risk (not a reason to encourage teen-age pregnancies)
• Exposure to chest radiation
• Being overweight or obese increases risk
• Certain hormone therapies may increase risk
• Beware of breast implants
Some good news though;
• Breast feeding for one and a half to two years may marginally reduce your risk. Current work schedules, fashion and spouse preferences may make this a difficult hurdle to overcome
• Exercise pops up again as being a great way to reduce our risk
• “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food” – Hippocrates. I do think he made a point that is still relevant today. Healthy eating makes a world of difference. Many theories exist but do not complicate your life with deciding if walnuts or mushrooms are better or if garlic reputed to drive away vampires is the magic wand for breast cancer. Eat your fruits, vegetables (vary the colours), increase fish (source of Omega-3 fatty acids) intake and you will strengthen your immune system.
Diagnosing Breast Cancer
There are different types of breast cancer and their management may also vary. Some people know a lot about their breasts and the awareness of breast cancer is so high that the smallest change in their breast is reported to a health professional. In our part of the world ignorance, poverty and fear may delay detection to the point that the breast is sometimes “mutilated” beyond recognition and the odour emanating from the breast could relieve you of your chronic sinusitis before one presents at a hospital. Prior to this some may have tried all sorts of concoctions including applying suspicious herbs and driving away evil spirits.
The following steps may help:
• Physician and/or self-breast exam
o Always better if done as a routine exam
o Look out for lumps, changes in breast shape and sizes, skin changes in colour and dimpling,
o Itching of breast (do not panic. This is rarely an indication of breast cancer)
o Nipple discharge or changes
• Mammography
• Ultra sound scan of the breasts
• Biopsy – taking out a suspicious growth in the breast and examining
Other tests such as PET CT, MRI and the CT scan will also help detect spread if they are available.
“Your mammogram is suspicious for breast cancer” or “your biopsy was positive for breast cancer” are two of the many phrases that cause panic and fear in every man or woman. Yes laughter has been described as the best medicine but a late diagnosis of breast cancer is no laughing matter. Let us take steps now to detect breast cancer early so that we can “overcome’ it.
Can you imagine what goes through the mind of someone who is diagnosed of breast cancer especially without adequate counseling?
We elicit multiple fears including:
• Fear of surgery
• Fear of death
• Loss of body image
• Loss of sexuality
Statistics that make you cringe
• “A total of one woman is diagnosed of breast cancer worldwide every three minutes”. About two people will have been diagnosed with breast cancer by the time you finish bathing today
• “Breast cancer is the second commonest cancer among women in Ghana. It accounts for 15% of all cancers and 40% of female cancers in Ghana”
• “Majority of breast cancer cases in Ghana are between the ages of 40 – 49 years”
Medical science is unable to pinpoint the cause of breast cancer so our best options are EARLY DETECTION and REDUCING OUR RISK FACTORS. How many women in Ghana or other parts of the world will read this article or any other? I was at UT Bank’s “Pledge Pink Ball” two weeks ago and I must say they are really doing their bit. What can the rest of us do? This is why I totally agree with Prince Kofi Amoabeng (Capt. Rtd) when he says “the breast certainly needs support”. This is not the support offered by a good bra but support in cash to help cure those diagnosed but who cannot afford treatment, support through information dissemination and emotional support to cope with the diagnoses and side effects of treatment. Take a stand today and if you do not have any ideas you may contact UT Bank or the Cancer Society.
Finally dear reader let’s put the following in action
• Early detection is great so women should do monthly self exam and probably examination by a healthcare professional yearly. Men should make sure we examine our breasts occasionally, the risk is real
• All women should get a baseline mammogram between 35 – 40 years, 40-50 years mammogram every other year and yearly after 50 years. Yes there are arguments about this frequency but after all is said and done it is a safer option
• Exercise regularly
• Eat a healthy meal with a great portion of fruits, vegetables and omega -3 laden fish. But beware of fats and oil.
• If you intend to start a family, maybe you should before you are 30years and then breastfeed for as long as you can afford to.
• DEFINITELY make sure you alert at least one busy woman, one woman without access to information and one man, that breast cancer is real but a lot can be done when detected early.
Together we can all work to reduce the incidence of advanced breast cancer.

Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
(Moms’ Health Club)

Opening Soon: The Health Club @ Jubilee House, Adum, Kumasi. This is a LIFESTYLE, a whole new way of improving Corporate Health. Email for more info.

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