Of all the kinds of cancers, breast cancer is the commonest among Nigerian women. Over the last three decades, the figures have risen significantly. This is why it is very important to know the early signs of breast cancer in Nigeria.
If you can detect it early, the chances of overcoming it are better. In this post, we will discuss breast cancer, the early signs, risk factors, and several other pieces of information.
Defining Breast Cancer
Before we go further, it is important to answer the question, what is breast cancer? This condition occurs when the cells in the breasts begin to grow unusually and get out of control. It is even possible to find the cells travel to locations in the body where they shouldn’t be found. This is known as metastatic cancers.
Breast cancer mostly begins in either the milk-making glands or the ducts carrying milk to the nipple. After a while, it begins to grow larger in the breast and could spread to lymph nodes that are close by. It could also spread via the bloodstream to surrounding organs.
There are different kinds of breast cancer and they grow at different rates, the same with how they spread. While some spread rapidly, others take several years.
Early Breast Cancer Signs
The commonest way to detect breast cancers is by checking for lumps. Do you know that many a time, those lumps aren’t cancer-related? Many lumps found in the breast are non-cancerous or benign.
The most common causes of non-cancerous breast lumps include:
- Damaged tissue or fat necrosis.
- Non-cancerous tumor or fibroadenoma.
- Lumpy breasts or fibrocystic breast disease.
- Breast infection.
Women are advised to perform monthly breast exams from home. When you do, what should you look out for? These are the early signs of breast cancer:
- Changes in nipple shape.
- Breast pain that lingers after the monthly period.
- Another lump that lingers after the next monthly period.
- Nipple discharge that is clear, yellow, brown, or red.
- Unexplained swelling, redness, rash, itchiness, or skin irritation on the breast.
- A lump or swelling under the arm or around the collarbone.
When you notice that a lump is hard and has irregular edges, then it is very likely a cancerous one. What signs should you watch out for later on?
- Inward turning or retracting nipple.
- Enlargement of one of the breasts.
- Dimpling on the surface of the breast.
- An existing lump that keeps getting bigger.
- When the texture of the skin feels like an orange peel.
- Vaginal pain.
- Unplanned weight loss.
- Enlarged lymph nodes under the arms.
- Visible veins over the breasts.
It is important to note that having one of these symptoms or more is not a confirmation of breast cancer. For example, nipple discharge may mean that you have an infection. We advise that you see a doctor when you notice these early signs of breast cancer in Nigeria or the later ones.
Can Men Have Breast Cancer?
It is not strange to find people to ask this question. This is because women seem to have more cases of breast cancer. However, there are also cases of breast cancers in males even though it is a rarity. Older men are more at risk of developing breast cancer than younger ones.
Do you know that men also have breast tissue? These tissues can undergo cancerous changes. The reason why breast cancer is less common in men is that they have less developed breast cells.
Asides lumps, what are the other signs of male breast cancer:
- Nipple discharge.
- Thickening of breast tissue.
- Scaling or redness of nipples.
- Retracting nipple or nipple that turns inward.
- Unexplained swelling, rash, redness, itchiness, and skin irritation on the breast.
So many men don’t check their breast tissue regularly. As a result, they don’t notice signs of breast cancer early enough. This is why breast cancer in males is mostly diagnosed in the later stages.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
It isn’t exactly clear what the causes of breast cancer are. However, certain factors contribute to breast cancer. There are two categories of breast cancer risk factors, they are:
- Risk Factors that you can’t control
- Risk Factors that you can control
Risk factors that you can’t control
In this section, we will show you some breast cancer risk factors that aren’t possible to control. They include:
- Age – Women that are older than 50 are at more risk of developing breast cancer.
- Race – White women are less likely to develop breast cancer than women of African origin, especially before menopause.
- Dense breasts – It is more difficult to observe tumors on a mammogram when breasts have less fatty tissue than connective tissue.
- Previous cancer history – If you have had cancer before, then you are more at risk.
- Menstrual history – Chances of developing breast cancer rise if a lady began her periods before 12-years-old. They also go up if a woman’s periods don’t stop before she is 55-years-old.
Other factors that you can’t control include family history, genes, radiation, and diethylstilbestrol (DES).
Risk factors that you can control
These are some of the breast cancer risk factors that are within your power to control:
- Physical activity – Move more to reduce your chances.
- Diet and weight – Gaining a lot of weight after menopause increases your chances.
- Alcohol – Drinking in excess regularly raises the odds of developing breast cancer.
- Taking hormones – Chances may rise if you make use of hormone replacement therapy for over 5 years during menopause. Use of some birth control methods such as shots, pills, implants, skin patches, vaginal rings, etc.
- Reproductive history – Having your first birth after 30-years-old, avoiding breastfeeding, or when the pregnancy doesn’t reach full-term.
Overall, many women who are at a high risk of breast cancer do not get it. Studies show that 75 percent of the women with this condition, never showed risk factors.
We have shown you the early signs of breast cancer in Nigeria. You must always check yourself to be sure that you don’t show any of these signs. Once you notice any, speak to your physician. Don’t forget, the earlier you diagnose breast cancer, the better your chance of beating it.