Sustaining Healthcare for Breast Cancer

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The third United Nations Sustainable Development Goal is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages and one of the targets is to reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution; and contamination.

Breast cancer affects the breasts of women and most times can be detected early with regular breast examinations. This is something that has constantly been promoted in recent years. Just as with other cancers, people still have a chance of surviving breast cancer when detected early.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has explained cancer as a group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade other tissues. There are more than 100 types of cancers. Cancer develops over several years and has many causes. The development, causes of all cancers are not completely understood but it’s strongly believed that lifestyle choices, environmental pollutants, genetics are factors that contribute to the development of the disease.

The National Cancer Institute has it that cancer is caused by changes to certain genes that alter the way our cells function. Some of these genetic changes occur naturally when DNA is replicated during the process of cell division. But others are the result of environmental exposures that damage DNA. These exposures may include substances, such as the chemicals in tobacco smoke, or radiation, such as ultraviolet rays from the sun. Some of these exposures can be controlled – tobacco smoke, UV rays from the sun. The big challenge is when the exposures are beyond our control – air pollution by scientifically proven carcinogens, polluted water by carcinogenic chemicals from industrial activities and pesticides on our foods. Therefore knowing which exposures would cause potential harm and their sources would go a long way in preventing the disease. It has also been categorically stated that a carcinogen does not necessarily have to cause cancer out-rightly. Level of exposure, the duration of exposure and the individual’s genetic make-up influence the development of the disease.

The cancer risks associated with many environmental chemicals have been identified through studies of occupational groups that have higher exposures to these chemicals than general population. According to Breast Cancer Action, a growing body of evidence from experimental, body burden and ecological research indicates that there is a connection between environmental factors and breast cancer. There are over 85,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today, from preservatives in our lipstick to flame retardants in our sofas, from plastics our water bottles are made of to pesticides on our fruits and vegetables.

This is another important reason why we have to really pay attention to our environmental activities. Businesses are not left out as they drive the economy by their various activities which mostly involves environmentally unfriendly practices like fracking and mining.

In the honor of the Breast Cancer Awareness month, a renowned surgical breast care specialist — and the doctor who treated Angelina Jolie — discussed the recent advancements made in the battle to fight the disease that affects approximately one in eight women. Dr. Kristi Funk also shared some of her top diet and lifestyle tips to help prevent breast cancer live on “Good Morning America” on the 6th of October, 2017.

New advancements in breast cancer research

According to the doctor, the rise in both the refinement and effectiveness of 3-D mammography is one of the most important breast cancer developments made this year. “One recent study found that 3-D mammography had a 34 percent higher rate of finding breast cancer than 2-D mammography”, Funk said.

She went further to explain that cancer is often hidden by dense breast tissue, so 3-D mammography helps doctors obtain a much clearer image of what’s actually going on, Earlier this year, Reddington Hospital in partnership with GE Healthcare launched a new Breast and Gynaecological Centre in Lagos which offers a 3D digital breast Tomosynthesis (3D Mammography), a 3D Automatic Breast Ultrasound System (3D ABUS), a 3D digital breast stereotaxic biopsy system (3D stereo), a 3D MRI with 1.5Tesla GE Explorer Technology. While 3-D mammography is not currently considered the standard, she adds that perhaps it will become that way in the future.

The role of nutrition and lifestyle

Most diseases have been proven to be reasonably preventable with the right diet and lifestyle choices we make. We have a high level of control over these than the environmental risk factors. Dr. Funk recommended the consumption of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage every day. She also advised that people surround their homes with household plants, eat anti-oxidant rich berries like strawberries, blueberries and choose organic produce if the skin would be consumed.

Maintaining a healthy weight reduces our risk of contracting many chronic illnesses. Asides from this, including exercises helps to relieve stress that could otherwise lead to overeating and weight gain. To a reasonable extent now, we can control our exposure to toxic chemicals in cosmetics, cleaning materials, furniture, and food thereby reducing the environmental risk of developing the disease.

A call to action

The role of nutrition and lifestyle changes should be harnessed in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Health care centers mostly pay attention to the diets of patients with full blown diabetes but not cancer. There should also be regulations on the safety of chemicals included in cosmetic formulations and household cleaning materials.  As individuals, people need to take their health more seriously. We do not always have to wait till that disease shows up.

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