Every year, the month of October is dedicated to breast cancer awareness across the globe. The African Cancer Organization (ACO), with its partners, is thus this year, organising series of breast cancer-related events to generate more awareness and also raise support to promote breast cancer prevention.
Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, with over two million women being diagnosed of breast cancer each year and some 627,000 deaths from the disease. This represents about 15% of all cancer deaths among women. Breast cancer incidence is increasing in the developing countries in the past few decades. The result of the rising breast cancer has become an important cause of premature deaths and suffering in these parts of the world. It is projected that breast cancer will continue to increase with further westernization.
In Ghana majority of breast cancer patients report so late that in most cases the treatment offered is ineffective and cure is often impossible. Those who die from breast cancer normally leave behind orphans. On the contrary, it is estimated that by making changes to the food we eat, the level of exercise we undertake and maintaining a normal body weight, along with early detection, screening and other lifestyle changes, majority of breast cancers can be prevented.
The Normal Breast
The breasts sit on the chest muscles that cover the ribs. Each breast is made of 15 to 20 lobes. Lobes contain many smaller lobules. Lobules contain groups of tiny glands that can produce milk. Milk flows from the lobules through thin tubes called ducts to the nipple. The nipple is in the center of a dark area of skin called the areola. Fat fills the spaces between the lobules and ducts. The breasts also contain lymph vessels. These in the axilla (armpit), above the collarbone, in the chest behind the breastbone, and in many other parts of the body. The lymph nodes trap bacteria, cancer cells, or other harmful substances.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer refers to cancers that can develop in any part of the breast tissue. Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of breast cells. Breast cancers may start as a tiny lump in the breast. If it is not treated by removing the lump from the breast, it may grow and spread to the whole breast. At this point, if no action is taken against the disease, it may spread to other parts of the body where cure is often impossible. Breast cancer can spread to almost any other part of the body. The most common parts of the body that breast cancer spread to are the lymph nodes in the axilla, bones, liver, lungs and the brain. The spread of cancer is called metastasis. Breast cancers are serious and may be life-threatening. Breast cancers can often be removed, but sometimes they can re-grow. When breast cancer grows back, it is called recurrent breast cancer.