In my final year of med school, I remember standing at the assistant’s side during a breast-removing surgery, which is otherwise known as mastectomy. After removing the breast tissue, the surgeon asked me if I felt like crying. He had performed several such surgeries and from his experience, mastectomy is a surgery that irks females the most. I have seen diabetics refuse toe amputations. Men will do anything to avoid prostatectomy (a surgery to remove the prostate gland). It is not easy for a woman to sign that consent form that will lead to the loss of her breast(s). Even those women who undergo breast reconstruction surgery soon after mastectomy have a hard time deciding to undergo mastectomy. It is certainly harder for those who undergo the surgery only to spend the rest of their lives with one breast and a large scar in place of the other one. While some are able to go on with their lives without a care, life changes for most of them. Such surgeries don’t just change the way they look, they change marriages. Most women will spend hours before the mirror trying to make their padded bras to “work” with their outfits.
While most women undergo mastectomy once diagnosed with breast cancer, Angelina Jolie, a Hollywood actress had a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of getting breast cancer after testing positive for BRCA1 gene. BRCA1 gene is basically a ‘breast cancer susceptibility gene’. Jolie’s mother had died at age fifty six to breast cancer ten years after she had been diagnosed with the disease. Jolie stated that the decision to have a mastectomy wasn’t an easy one. She was however glad to have undergone mastectomy as that reduced her risk to develop breast cancer greatly.
Unlike Angelina Jolie, most women who undergo mastectomy in our set up do so for curative rather than preventive purposes. Most of them present when already suffering from breast cancer. This is either because of our poor health seeking behaviors or because of poverty or ignorance.
As we draw towards the end of October, I would like to make you aware of some factors that may increase your chances of getting breast cancer. Women with these risk factors should visit their doctors for regular check-ups. Those with a high probability of suffering breast cancer should consider mastectomy early enough just like Angelina Jolie, because you are better off alive with no breasts than dead with breasts.
HERE ARE SOME RISK FACTORS;
- Advancing age. The risk for breast cancer increases with age. Average age for diagnosis is fifty years.
- No pregnancy. While pregnancy is protective of breast cancer, those who appear to be protected are those who get pregnant during their twenties.
- Breast cancer in the contra lateral breastP. eople who have suffered breast cancer in one breast are at risk of developing cancer in the opposite breast. T hat’s why most people opt for a double mastectomy once diagnosed.
- Family historyB. reast cancer tends to run in families. Daughters of mothers who have suffered breast cancer are at a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Early onset of menstruation and late menopause. Onset of menses earlier than thirteen.
- Late onset of menopause of later than fifty
- Age at first delivery. If aged 30 years or older, relative risk is 2 times that of patients who gave birth when younger than 20 years.
- Oral contraceptive pills.
- Hormonal replacement therapy.
- Cigarette smoking and Alcohol consumption. Smoking is actually a risk factor for several other cancers.
- Diet-Fatty diet.
- Exposure to radiation in the chest
NOTE1; while these risk factors increase the likelihood of suffering from breast cancer, they in isolation don’t cause breast cancer.
People with certain risk factors are likelier to suffer from breast cancer than others. Case in question here is a family history of breast cancer.
Therefore, people with these risk factors are advised to be extremely vigilant. Don’t forget to perform those regular self examinations on yourselves.
Make a point of visiting a doctor for regular check-ups.
If a suspicious lump is found during the course of these check-ups, have it investigated.
Remember cancer, if found early enough is curable.
When it comes to your healthy, be proactive