New breast cancer treatment helps sufferers gain ground

05Apr 2019
Editor
DAR ES SALAAM
The Guardian
New breast cancer treatment helps sufferers gain ground

Breast cancer is cancer that develops from breast tissue.  Signs of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, a newly inverted nipple, or a red or scaly patch of skin.  In those with distant spread of the disease,-

there may be bone pain, swollen lymph nodes, shortness of breath, or yellow skin.  

Risk factors for developing breast cancer include being female, obesity, lack of physical exercise, drinking alcohol, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, ionizing radiation, early age at first menstruation, having children late or not at all, older age, prior history of breast cancer, and family history.  About 5–10 per cent of cases are due to genes inherited from a person's parents,  including BRCA1 and BRCA2 among others.  Breast cancer most commonly develops in cells from the lining of milk ducts and the lobules that supply the ducts with milk.  Cancers developing from the ducts are known as ductal carcinomas, while those developing from lobules are known as lobular carcinomas.  In addition, there are more than 18 other sub-types of breast cancer.  Some cancers, such as ductal carcinoma in situ, develop from pre-invasive lesions.  The diagnosis of breast cancer is confirmed by taking a biopsy of the concerning lump.  Once the diagnosis is made, further tests are done to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the breast and which treatments are most likely to be effective.  

The balance of benefits versus harms of breast cancer screening is controversial. A 2013 Cochrane review stated that it is unclear if mammographic screening does more good or harm.  In developing countries survival rates are poorer.  Worldwide, breast cancer is the leading type of cancer in women, accounting for 25 per cent of all cases.  In 2012 it resulted in 1.68 million new cases and 522,000 deaths.  It is more common in developed countries  and is more than 100 times more common in women than in men.

Breast cancer patients in the country have a reason to smile following the start of a new operation procedure that eliminates the deadly cells without removing the infected organ as it was earlier.

The new advanced treatment is being hailed by experts as a milestone as the previous procedure that required the removal of the infected breast caused trauma to patients due to consequent changes in physical looks that came with the removal of the organ, as a crucial part of a woman’s image.

Speaking during the opening of a breast cancer forum at the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) Mloganzila teaching hospital on the outskirts of the city of Dar es Salaam recently, MNH executive director Prof Lawrence Museru said the first four patients will be operated using the technology installed at Mloganzila.  

The technology known as breast conserving surgery will henceforth be an alternative to mastectomy surgery, following the recent procurement of state-of-the-art cancer care and treatment machines at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI).

Breast cancer incidence rates are higher in high-income countries than in low- and middle-income countries but deaths are higher in low and middle income countries due to limited capacity for prevention, early detection and treatment programs, the don explained, noting that in Tanzania, breast cancer represents 14.4percent of new cancer cases among women, annually.

He said breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer death among women worldwide, representing 25 to 35-percent of all female cancer cases.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer and second leading cause of cancer mortality among women in Tanzania.

The lifetime risk for developing breast cancer in Tanzania is approximately 1 in 20, and around half of all women diagnosed with breast cancer are likely to die of their condition, he pointed out.

On treatment, Prof Museru said successful breast cancer control demands integrating early detection programs with accurate diagnosis and timely, accessible and effective treatments in a multidisciplinary approach.