Breast sucking does not prevent breast cancer – Specialists


Medical experts have debunked the myth surrounding breast cancer – that men sucking their breasts prevents women from getting the disease.

In an interview with Dr. Vanessa Mensah-Kabu, a medical doctor and women’s health advocate from International SOS, she said the misconception is a way of involving men in the fight against breast cancer by encouraging breast examination for early detection.

“It is important that we get familiarised with the breasts; we need to inspect and palpate just so we will be able to identify any unusual lumps. That, I believe, is the reason behind why they are saying men should suck the breasts,” she stated.

She however said breast cancer is a serious disease killing many women, hence the whole concept of trying to trivialise and sexualise the disease is what needs to be discouraged.

“We know our bodies more than anybody else, and the more you familiarise with your breasts the more you will know when there is anything abnormal. Although it does not come from a malicious point to view, the whole idea of trying to sexualise breast cancer is not one that we are trying to propagate,” she said.

Speaking to Dr. Nehemiah Hammond of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, he stated that although studies have shown that breast-feeding can reduce a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer, there is no medical proof that men sucking breasts can prevent the disease.

“It is breast-feeding of babies, not sucking breasts by the men. It has been found that once you breast-feed for up to 2 years, you get some protection from breast cancer. The hormones released in each instance are different, and that’s what accounts for the protection,” he said.

What causes breast cancer?

There are no specific causes of breast cancer; however, there are risk factors which make one more vulnerable to the disease.

The primary risk factor of breast cancer is gender. Even though both men and women can get breast cancer, it is rare in the former. Women are at higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Every female in her reproductive age can get cancer, but it more common as you grow old.

He stated that even though age is a risk factor, “These days we are seeing it in young people as well, so it’s not just about how old you are; there are other factors which increase risk”.

Other factors like family history, obesity, smoking and drinking, and sedentary lifestyles increase the risk of breast cancer.

Also, early menarche and late menopause as well as the use of some contraceptive pills – especially the hormonal ones and combined oral contraceptive – for a very long time can predispose women to breast cancer.

He added that the risk factors do not necessarily mean that once they are present woman will definitely get breast cancer. Some women get breast cancer even without any of the risk factors.

Symptoms and effects of breast cancer

The most common symptom of breast cancer people know of is a lump in the breast. According to Dr. Hammond, not every lump in the breast is breast cancer. There are several breast diseases that present lumps in the breast and might not necessarily be breast cancer.

He mentioned that some of the lumps are called benign breast conditions, which are non-cancerous and not life-threatening; but when they are malignant, that is termed as cancer.

“So when you see a lump in your breast, you have to visit the hospital for further evaluation because you wouldn’t know whether it is benign or malignant; and that’s why we advocate for regular screening and reporting in when you see anything abnormal,” he mentioned.

The effects of breast cancer start to show when the disease has advanced, because in its early stages it just presents as painless lump in the breast.

“They may be bloody nipple discharge, the skin around the breast may change, and you may also see some swelling around the armpit. Breast cancer in its initial stage won’t give you many problems, but the effects come in later,” Dr. Hammond said.

Like every cancer, breast cancer spreads from the breast to neigbouring organs and finally the rest of the body. It can spread to the lungs which is the immediate organ, and lead to coughing and shortness of breath; and also block the lymph-nodes in the armpit to cause swelling in the hands.

Is breast cancer preventable?

There are no specific ways to prevent breast cancer. However, healthy habits like limiting alcohol intake, exercising and eating balanced food can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

The most effective way of detecting breast cancer is screening. In every month, all females must self-examine the breasts usually five to seven days after menstruation. This does not imply that only women who menstruate must self-examine their breasts.

Women in the post-menopausal period can choose any day within the month to examine their breasts. Usually, women below forty years are advised to do ultrasound; however, there are certain cases that require a mammogram; and, lastly, every woman above forty years should get a mammogram in every year.

There is also a lot of fear about the misconceptions of breast cancer. One of the treatments for breast cancer is chemotherapy, which kills the cancer cells in the body; but because there are other cells in the body, they are sometimes affected by the medicine. There are side-effects, but the common one people know of is loss of hair; but once the treatment is done, the hair grows back.

“Your life is more important than the hair you are going to wear, so it is necessary that you seek treatment and not listen to the misconceptions; get information from the professionals to enable you make an informed choice and seek treatment. If they say chemotherapy will kill you, breast cancer will even kill you quicker,” he cautioned.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), breast cancer affected 2.3 million women globally in 2020. It is the most common cancer in women worldwide, contributing to 25.8% of total number of cases diagnosed in 2020; and in this country, the WHO 2020 Cancer Profile shows that breast cancer is the number-one cancer among women, with relatively high mortality ratews.

It is for this reason that, globally, October has been marked as ‘Pink Month’ for breast cancer awareness in order to educate people to know the signs and symptoms; such as lumps in the breasts, changes in their size and shape, the skin texture, discharges from the nipples, and tenderness in the breast and armpit among others.

Also, breast cancer education is meant to eradicate superstitious beliefs such as breast cancer being a spiritual problem, and reducing stigmatisation as well as encouraging people to seek expert advice and treatment to save lives.

Source: TheBFT

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