Cancer and Women: A Quick Guide From An Expert


Cancer is the leading cause of death in women. The commonest cancers in women are breast followed by cervical cancer. I don’t have the data in Nigeria but in the UK more than 100 women are diagnosed with breast cancer daily. The good news is that more women now survive breast cancer because of early detection and better treatments. Facts about breast cancer:

* It can occur in both men and women , though it is a lot commoner in women

* More men that suffer from breast cancer die than women because of delay in diagnosis in men

* Though it can occur at any age especially following menarche, most cases (80%) occur after the age of 50 years. What makes you more at risk of developing breast cancer??

* If you have a family history of breast cancer especially if you mother, sister or daughter had breast cancer before they were 40

* If you have had a breast cancer before

* If you have had a breast lesion with atypical changes * the older you are the greater your chances of developing breast cancer. Commoner in over 50’s * if you are obese * if you smoke

* if you drink alcohol excessively

*if you have abnormal gene eg BRCA1 and BRCA2 ( remember the case of the actress Angelina Jolie who had her breasts removed recently because she found that she has those abnormal genes)

* if you have not had a baby and you are advancing in age

* if you started your period at a very young age or your menopause came very late

* If you are taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) especially if you have taken them for up to 5 years. The longer you take it the greater your risk. The good news is that your risk decreases as soon as you stop taking them.

* Too much consumption of fatty food has been found to increase your risk

* There is also some evidence that oral contraceptive (The pill) may lead to a small increase in your risk but this risk would return to normal after discontinuing with them.

As there are factors that increase your risk of developing breast cancer, there are also factors that decease your risk as follows:

  1. Having children: There is some evidence that the more children a woman has the less likely she is to develop breast cancer.
  2. Breast feeding: There is also some good evidence that the longer a woman breastfeeds her children the less likely she is to develop breast cancer.
  3. Physical activity: The more physically active you are, the less likely are you to develop breast cancer.
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