Breast Cancer Dilemma: Like any other machine human cells are prone to natural wear and tear with time and utilization. The presence of built-in error(s) in the genes and callous use of cells challenges the natural authority of cell regulatory mechanisms.
Human cells divide and grow in calculative manner depending on their nature under strict control of genomic code. Any dysregulation in cell-regulatory mechanism caused by natural wear and tear of human cellular machinery or inflicted by external agents could results in the loss of cell’s ability to control itself.
This will lead to rapid cell division and accumulation of undesirable mass of cells known as tumor. In case of breast cancer the tumor arises in the milk ducts or nearby regions. If the cells in the tumor tend to stay at one place during their development, the tumor is called as a benign tumor.
In another situation if these cells start moving from their primary site to other locations in the body, they are referred to as malignant tumors and this process is called metastasis. Benign tumors are not a real threat to human lives; it is the ability of the cancer cells to invade other organs or undergo metastasis which is the real cause of death in cancer.
According to the updated data of 2018 by World Health Organization (WHO), 2.1 million women fall victim to breast cancer worldwide every year. The astonishing rate of 83,000 cases per year in a developing country like Pakistan with estimated per capita income of $1641 is a real threat to our national growth.
The picture is gloomy with since reasonable number of breast cancer patients fail to report, making it almost impossible to develop a reliable breast cancer registry. Breast cancer is a disease of a mother, whose well being defines the quality of family life in Pakistan.
The formidable challenge needs our special attention and steps must be taken from the individual levels to the state organs to reduce disease incidences.
The innovative protocols and guidelines must be customized to our national needs and should be in sync with the social structure of our population. Following are some of the underlying factors which are generally contributing to the drastic expansion of breast cancer in Pakistani population.
Factors promoting breast cancer and how to manage them
15% cases of breast cancer patients have a family history or they are hereditary in nature, in other words 85% of the rest of the cases develop the disease due to the external factors which can increase natural wear and tear of cellular machinery.
Use of unbalanced diet as well contaminated food and water are major factors promoting breast cancer. Unlike lung and liver cancer which have well defined external factors like smoking, hepatitis and alcoholism respectively, breast cancer is known to be triggered by genetic mutations.
Since we cannot change our genetic structure in our lives, but we can decrease the probability of disease by providing healthier ingredients of life to our cellular systems.
Knowing what you are eating as a source of energy for your body is important factor. Having more fruits and semi cooked vegetables provides more accessible nutrients for body. It helps in the bio availability of vital chemicals required for normal cellular functions.
Consistent intake of contaminated and difficult to digest food or food with high fat contents is related with increased incidence rate of breast cancer. Keeping variety and simplicity helps in avoiding breast cancer.
Consistent intake of toxins through air, food and water keeps the immune system of our body on high alert, utilizing most of its available resources. Together with the built in errors in the genes, the situation leads to higher chances of developing cancers.
Obesity or having over weight body structure especially if the weight develops in later age of life near menopause increases risk of breast cancer in women. Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) with regular aerobic activities or exercise can help in achieving that state.
Longer breast feeding period helps in shedding cells from breast tissue avoiding complications which arise due to DNA damage in breast cells. Research showed that breast feeding decreases the risks associated with breast cancer development in mothers,
The protective effect increases with longer breast feeding period. Use of hormonal birth control pills slightly increases to chances of developing breast cancer especially in woman with higher personal risk of breast cancer.
Ignorance and social taboos related to the breast cancer is contributing in disease progression. Women feel uncomfortable in sharing initial symptoms to their loved ones and lose the precious period of effective cure. This results in advance stages and metastasis of breast cancer leaving little or no hope for survival.
The easiest way to have an upper hand against breast cancer is to increase awareness about the disease. We can significantly decrease the number of cases by avoiding consanguinity or cousin marriages. This is a driving force behind increased number of cases in societies like Pakistan.
We have two sources of each cellular function called paternal and maternal alleles. Consanguinity creates more chances of having erroneous alleles on both sources at the same time, leading to a loss of cellular function and disease.
Failure in early diagnosis of breast cancer is crucial for effective treatment. Self-analysis of breast and sharing disease symptoms with family and doctors should be encouraged. Regular mammography after 40 years of age especially in females with family history of breast cancer is a must have.
Providing our youth with target oriented education can help in clarifying misconceptions regarding this disease and it will also help in creating more awareness.
An empowered and aware lady has highest chances to avoid breast cancer as well as to exist as a breast cancer survivor. This is not possible without the people from where she draws her energy, the men of her family.
Forman Christian College University, Lahore Pakistan