BREAST CANCER IN GHANA: MISCONCEPTION VERSES TRUTHS


BY
COMFORT HAMMOND
(NURSE, PUBLIC HEALTH STUDENT, GIMPA)
DR. DANIEL NORTEY
(SUPERVISOR, MEDICAL OFFICER IN-CHARGE, GIMPA CLINIC)

BACKGROUND
In Ghana, breast cancer is a significant public health concern. It is, in terms of mortality and incidence, the most common cause of cancer deaths among Ghanaian women with its incidence consistently rising. Clinical findings from sub-Saharan Africa suggest that breast cancer is most severe with poor prognosis usually in indigenous black African populations. Possible reasons include lack of screening protocols, young age at diagnosis, lack of awareness, advanced stage when diagnosed, elevated-grade histological subtypes, large tumor size, low hormone receptor rates, and other epidemiological risk factors including lack of knowledge about the condition, with misconceptions and truths.
For good health, health literacy, which can be described as the ability to search, understand and use health information, is essential. Nevertheless, in Ghana, knowledge of the etiology and complications of breast cancer seems to have escaped many people. Studies indicate that advanced stage of breast cancer is associated with low education levels and low socio-economic status.

SOME MISCONCEPTIONS VERSUS TRUTHS
MISCONCEPTION: I am not going to have it if I don’t have a family history of breast cancer.
TRUTH: The majority of women with breast cancer had no known past family history.
MISCONCEPTION: Annual mammograms ensure that breast cancer is detected early.
TRUTH: Although mammography is the best early-detection method we have, at an early stage, it does not always spot breast cancer.
However, mammography catches most breast cancers, and that is why it is important to have frequent screenings. But paying attention to any changes in your breasts, doing monthly breast self-examinations, and getting a physical examination of your breasts every year by a health professional is also significant.
MISCONCEPTION: Cancer of the breast often produces a lump that you can feel.
TRUTH: Breast cancer, particularly in its early stage, might not show a lump.
MISCONCEPTION: Having a breast lump means you have breast cancer
TRUTH: Only a small proportion of lumps in the breast turn out to be cancer. But it can never be disregarded if you find a recurring lump in your breast or observe any changes in breast tissue or shape of breast. For a professional breast exam, it is extremely necessary that you see a doctor. He or she may order breast imaging tests to determine whether or not this lump is of concern.
MISCONCEPTION: You do not have to worry about getting breast cancer if you maintain a healthy weight, regular exercise, eat a healthy diet and cut back on alcohol.
TRUTH: While these habits can help lower the risk of breast cancer, they do not eradicate it.
MISCONCEPTION: Only middle-aged and older women get breast cancer.
TRUTH: Younger women, can and do get breast cancer.
MISCONCEPTION: Prolong wearing a brassier may contribute to cancer of the breast.
TRUTH: There is no evidence that prolonged wearing of brassier can cause breast cancer.
A 2014 study by Chen, L. et al. of about 1,500 women with breast cancer found no association between the wearing of brassier and breast cancer.
MISCONCEPTION: The use of an armpit antiperspirant can cause cancer of the breast.
TRUTH: There is no indication that the use of underarm antiperspirant is linked with cancer of the breast, but the safety of antiperspirants is still being investigated.
MISCONCEPTION: Consuming too much sugar causes breast cancer.
TRUTH: No evidence exists that breast cancer is caused by sugar in the diet.
MISCONCEPTION: Early stage of breast cancer does not recur after treatment.
TRUTH: There is still a chance of the cancer returning.
MISCONCEPTION: All breast cancers are treated equally.
TRUTH: Depending on the nature of cancer and patient needs, treatment options differ widely. Breast cancer can affect the lives and well-being of people.
MISCONCEPTION: Men do not develop breast cancer; it only affects women.
TRUTH: It is predicted that approximately 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year. While this percentage is still small, by doing a breast self-examination while in the shower and reporting any adjustments to their doctors, one will be on a safer side.
Breast cancer in men is primarily detected under the nipple and areola. Men have a higher mortality rate than women, mostly because there is less awareness among men and they are less likely to believe that a lump in the breast is breast cancer, which may lead to a failure to seek healthcare.
MISCONCEPTION: Sucking of breast reduces breast cancer.
TRUTH: No research show sucking of breast in itself reduces breast cancer but breastfeeding a baby is protective.
CONCLUSION
Ghana currently lacks a systematic policy on breast cancer prevention.
Guidelines for the treatment of breast cancer are lacking and treatment requiring radiotherapy is only accessible in the two largest cities in Ghana, creating major geographical barriers.
In Ghana, studies on breast cancer usually report poor distribution, survival and knowledge of the point.
In addition, they suggest that awareness, attitudes and social stigma of Ghanaians are significant determinants of breast cancer late stage presentation.
These poor conditions illustrate the need to strengthen the policy of breast cancer prevention in Ghana and to meet the needs of the relatively young female population of Ghana.

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