The National President, Association of Radiation and Clinical Oncologists of Nigeria (ARCON) Dr Nwamaka Lasebekon, on Monday, said Nigeria currently holds the highest breast cancer mortality rate in the globe.
She made the worrisome disclosure in Enugu while fielding questions from journalists on the sideline of the Association’s 6th Annual General Conference holding in the Coal City State.
Lasebekon said the situation required attention from all the stakeholders to save the country human and economic loss posed by the disease.
According to the ARCON President, “Breast cancer is a topical issue; it is the most common female malignancy; it is also one of the causes of death and the worst part for women in our country is that they are in their reproductive years.
“So the government loses a lot of revenue when a woman succumbs to cancer; remember the woman is the homemaker, she is the one who ensures everything in the home goes well, that the children are well taken care of.
“There is a huge burden and huge loss with just one woman that succumbs to breast cancer.”
Lasebekon classified the risk factors into modifiable and non-modifiable.
“Non-modifiable means that the fact that you are a woman increases your chances of having breast cancer,” she said, adding that “having a relative, what we call a first degree relative with breast cancer, also multiplies the risk.”
“On the modifiable, study has shown that a woman that breastfeeds her child reduces the risk of breast cancer; other modifiable factors include lifestyle, consuming high starchy food, consuming processed foods.
“Our forefathers had carbohydrates but they were not processed; but with the change in lifestyle, we are leaning more towards westernised diet, we are taking more of the processed foods, that is a risk factor, among others,” she further stated.
The ARCON President, however, lamented that religious belief was one of the factors against early diagnosis and cancer treatment.
She disclosed that, “some people come and say- ‘it was an arrow, something bit them’. We need to abolish such beliefs; this is something that happens like hypertension because they are all in the range of chronic diseases- hypertension, diabetes and cancer.
“We are committed as ARCON in putting out that message to the general public so that they understand individual risks.
“If you have a mother or sister who has had breast cancer, your risk is not the same as somebody who has not had any of their relatives suffer cancer.
“If you know you have a high risk factor, then you do what we call screening modalities. You should start screening early, know your breasts, breast ultrasound breast MRI.”
She urged the government to roll out policies that would make cancer treatment accessible and affordable.