In estimated 20,000 breast cancer cases are recorded in Nigeria annually. Only annual screening guarantees prevention of untimely death. Today, more Nigerian women are aware of their breast health and breast cancer; however, some damaging myths exist that misinform on the benefits of early detection and seeking prompt care. In commemoration of the World Cancer Day, Sebbeccly Cancer Care is dispelling common myths around the disease by promoting breast awareness, and helping people understand the benefits of early detection and treatment.
It is a death sentence
Truth: Being diagnosed with breast cancer is not a death sentence. With the scientific and social progress in breast cancer care, more women are surviving breast cancer in Nigeria and worldwide. A lot of Nigerian women after treatment are able to resume work and normal activities, get pregnant, have children and live a happy life. Mortality rate in Nigeria is high because of the late stage at presentation, survivorship barriers (affordability, accessibility and availability of cancer care) and the aggressive biology of breast cancer. When breast cancer is detected early, the chance of surviving the disease is high.
It is contagious
Truth: No way, breast cancer is not contagious; it doesn’t spread from one person to person. You can hold hands, hug, sit and talk together with someone living with breast cancer.
No one in my family has breast cancer therefore I’m not at risk
Truth: Every woman has some risk of developing breast cancer. Majority (70-80 percent) of women who have breast cancer do not have a known family history or an identifiable risk factor. Even if no one in your family has ever been diagnosed, that’s no excuse to skip your yearly mammogram. It’s important all women over 40 years old be screened for breast cancer. A few women have a family history where at least two relatives such as a mother, aunt or male relative have been diagnosed with breast cancer: such women have an increased risk of breast cancer and they should visit their doctors to discuss risk reduction and intervention.
There is nothing I can do about breast cancer control
Truth: There is a lot that you can do at an individual, community and policy level to help women be breast aware and support access to cancer care. As an individual, being informed, avoiding tobacco, maintaining a healthy body weight, eating right, getting enough exercise, and getting appropriate cancer screening tests can all make a significant difference.
I don’t have the right to cancer care
Truth: All people have the right to access proven and effective cancer treatments and services on equal terms, and without suffering hardship as a consequence. Before starting treatment, do your research, ensure your hospital is equipped and you have the right health care professionals (breast surgeon, surgical and radiation oncologists). Sebeccly Cancer Care is committed to improving cancer care.
Breast cancer surgery could cause death and makes the cancer to spread
Truth: This myth may have started many decades ago when patients with cancer already had advanced stages of the disease by the time they sought medical care. Doctors who operated to diagnose the illness may have found advanced cancer that could not be treated successfully, so when patients died a short time later, observers claimed surgery caused the spread of cancer cells, ultimately killing the patient.
Breast surgeons/surgical oncologists are doctors highly trained in the intricacies of cancer surgery and anatomy. Patients and their loved ones should not delay or refuse surgery, which is an effective treatment.
Government hospitals are not equipped to treat cancer, most patients die there
Truth: While the Government hospitals have their challenges, currently they are amongst the best places for patients to receive care because of the specialists and facilities available there. It is common for patients who have received care in various places with no success to present to the Government hospitals as a last resort and in these situations; the option of treating with intent to cure is low.
Painful breast lumps are not breast cancer
Truth: Generally breast cancer lumps are painless, but pain alone cannot rule out cancer. Some women also believe that a painless lump must not be cancer. This is not true. There’s no correlation between whether the lump is painful and whether it’s cancerous. There is a popular saying amongst cancer specialists ‘All lumps are guilty, until proven otherwise’ therefore it doesn’t matter if the lump is painful or not or that you are in your 20’s; if you notice a breast lump, visit your doctor immediately.