|Year : 2017 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 40-43
Breast cancer risk factors and signs: How much do Nigerian women know?
Samuel O Azubuike
Department of Public and Environmental Health, School of Health Sciences, National Open University of , Lagos, Nigeria
|Date of Submission||17-Sep-2016|
|Date of Acceptance||07-Feb-2017|
|Date of Web Publication||29-Jun-2017|
Samuel O Azubuike
Department of Public and Environmental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, National Open University of Nigeria, Plot 91, Cadastral Zone, Nnamdi Azikiwe Express Way, Jabi-Abuja
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Azubuike SO. Breast cancer risk factors and signs: How much do Nigerian women know?. Int J Adv Med Health Res 2017;4:40-3
| Introduction|| |
Rapid increase in breast cancer incidence is now occurring in many developing countries. This has been attributed to change in reproductive behaviors, use of exogenous hormones, differences in weight, exercise, diet, and alcohol consumption., Breast cancer among African women has been marked by advanced stage distribution, partially explained by delayed presentation for medical evaluation. Factors related to women's knowledge and beliefs about breast cancer and its management can contribute significantly to health-seeking behavior.
Increasing exposure to breast cancer risk factors has been implicated in the rising incidence of breast cancer in Africa. Prevention strategies would, therefore, require an understanding of these risk factors by the vulnerable population. Study on knowledge of breast cancer risk factors among health workers in Nigeria has been previously conducted. General knowledge of risk factors and symptoms among Nigerian women has also been reported. However, there seems to be little or no report on the level of awareness associated with specific risk factors, signs, and symptoms associated with breast cancer incidence. These would be necessary to inform health education priorities.
It is against this backdrop, this re-analysis was aimed at reporting the level of awareness about specific breast cancer risk factors, signs, and symptoms among Nigerian women as well as to ascertain if such knowledge is related to practice as seen in our previous report.
| Materials and Methods|| |
This report is based on a cross-sectional study reported in an earlier publication. It involved 336 women of reproductive age (19–49 years) attending Immunization Clinic in Benin City, Nigeria. The specified age group has been reported to be at the highest risk of breast cancer in Nigeria., The sample size estimation, subject selection, data collection procedure, and ethical approval have been previously described.
| Results|| |
The sociodemographic information has been previously described.
[Table 1] shows that the leading risk factors known to the participants were alcohol intake (41.1%) and oral contraceptive use (39.6%). Lowest knowledge was expressed for age (14.6%) and menses before 12 years of age (12.8%). Age was indicated by only 49 (14.6%) women, family and previous history by 91 (27.1%) women. With the exception of alcohol intake, <40% had knowledge of other important specific breast cancer risk factors. The mean number of participants with knowledge of each of the risk factors was 78 (23.2%). Similarly, the highest level of awareness of breast cancer signs and symptoms was recorded for pain in the breast region, (57.4%), followed by nipple discharge (46.7) [Table 1]. Painless lump was acknowledged by 152 (45.2%) women, while pulling in of the nipple was the least acknowledged, by 109 (32.4%) women. With the exception of pain in the breast region, <50% of the participants knew about important signs/symptoms of breast cancer. Mean frequency for the knowledge of each of the specified signs and symptoms was 43.8%.
|Table 1: Knowledge of breast cancer (risk factors, signs, and symptoms) (n=336)|
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[Table 2] shows that the number of people with right practices was higher for nonconsumption of alcohol (80.4%), followed by regular checking of weight (42.9%). Nonuse of oral contraceptives was the least practiced. However, irregular practice was highest for “consideration of fat content of foods (19%), followed by nonconsumption of alcohol (13.4%).”
[Table 3] indicates a significant association between the knowledge of obesity as a risk factor and regular checking of weight (P = 0.02), between knowledge of family history as a risk factor and practice of breast self-examination (BSE; P = 0.002), as well as between knowledge of previous treatment of breast cancer as a risk factor and practice of BSE (P = 0.001).
|Table 3: Does awareness of risk factors relate to their practices and practice of early detection?|
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[Figure 1] indicates that electronic media indicated by 215 (63.99%) participants was the greatest source of information followed by hospital indicated by 76 (22.62%) participants.
| Discussion|| |
We found that electronic media and hospital were the dominant sources of information. This has also been reported in previous studies., They certainly provide a good opportunity for dissemination of breast cancer information. People's preference to learn from their physicians had been reported.
Knowledge of the leading risk factors known to the participants such as alcohol intake, and oral contraceptive use seemed not to agree with other previous studies consulted.,,, There might be suggestions that some other health-related programs other than breast cancer awareness program might be the source of this knowledge. The need for specific breast cancer awareness program targeting a wide range of various risk factors associated with breast cancer is, therefore, necessary. Important risk factors such as age described in absolute terms as the greatest risk of developing breast cancer  was indicated by only 14.6%. Though this was higher than the 5% reported in Australia, it was comparatively lower than reports from Britain and Malaysia.,
Awareness of a family history of breast cancer was low compared to several other studies where it appeared as one of the leading or most cited risk factors.,,, However, low knowledge of family history had been reported. Knowledge of the roles of nonmodifiable risk factors such as age and family history could enable women appreciate their vulnerability and make informed choices to reduce exposure to modifiable risk factors. The inability of respondents to appreciate other complex risk factors such as menstruation after the age of 55, early onset of menses, and first child after the age of 30 have been noted in previous studies,, although figures in those studies were comparatively higher. This further reflects poor level of awareness among the current participants.
On the knowledge of breast cancer signs/symptoms, the participants demonstrated higher awareness of the relevant signs/symptoms (mean frequency = 147 [43.8%]) compared to risk factors (mean = 78 [23.2%]). While knowledge of signs and symptoms is necessary, the result might suggest a better knowledge of secondary than primary level of prevention. Primary prevention here will require adequate knowledge of potential risk factors and adoption of attitudes that lead to reduced exposure to them, and thereby reducing vulnerability to the disease.
The most common presentation, which is painless lump, was ranked fourth in this study and was indicated by only 152 (45.2%) participants. While a higher figure, (81.6%) had been reported in a related study, a lower figure (6.7%) had been reported in another study. While this might be said to be fair compared to results of other studies,,, it is still not encouraging in view of the fact that about 54.5% could not identify it. Since early manifestation of breast cancer usually appears as painless lump, knowledge of this sign seems to hold the key to early detection, especially in a region like Nigeria where mammography is unavailable. Pain in the breast region identified as a leading sign in this study has appeared together with painless lump as leading signs/symptoms in another study. However, it was only recognized by a few in several other studies.,, This tends to suggest that might give attention to breast cancer only when it produces pain. It had been suggested that breast pain typically results from benign conditions and not treated as an early sign of cancer. Knowledge of lump under the armpit was low compared to a previous study where it was one of the leading recognizable signs. Nipple discharge, which was rated second in this study had also appeared as one of the most frequently cited sign in other studies  in contrast to another study where it was cited by a few. The differences might be due to differences in emphasis by health educators. The knowledge of breast cancer signs/symptoms in this study could be considered relatively fair compared to an Iranian study as well as other local studies.,, This may be related to differences in time and urbanisation.
Concerning practices toward breast cancer risk factors, the highest practice level was found to be nonconsumption of alcohol, while the least was for nonuse of oral contraceptive. However, this good practice in relation to alcohol might not have resulted from knowledge of its implication in breast cancer incidence. This is in consideration of the fact that it was only 138 (41.1%) participants who had this knowledge. Association between knowledge and consumption of alcohol was not statistically significant (P = 0.058). For oral contraceptive, the number that knew it as a risk factor though low (39.6%) was high compared to the number that do not use it (17.7%). This tends to suggest that knowledge might not be related to practice. Association between the knowledge and nonuse of oral contraceptive was not statistically significant (P = 0.0532). It seems that their perception of its advantages was higher than their perception of the risk it poses. There was a strong association between knowledge of obesity as a risk factor and regular checking of weight (P = 0.02). This might be attributed to recent campaigns against obesity and promotion of weight-watching behavior. Such awareness might have created opportunity for knowledge of the dangers obesity poses in relation to cancer. Knowledge of high fatty diet as a risk factor, seemed to be related to its consideration in diet. However, association between the two was not statistically significant. Knowledge of the previous treatment of breast cancer as a risk factor and practice of BSE was statistically significant. Similar result was also obtained for knowledge of family history as a risk factor and practice of BSE where a significant association was found (P = 0.002). It seemed that previous and family experience of breast cancer increased their awareness of early detection. While there was evidence that knowledge of some of these risk factors might translate to right practices, it was also observed that some of the existing knowledge seemed not to be sufficiently adequate to bring about the desired attitudinal change toward prevention. In general, it seemed that most of the respondents were not yet sufficiently informed to improve their practices toward breast cancer prevention.
The limitation of the present study lies in the fact that measurement was done subjectively and answers obtained were subject to recall bias. However, we believe that the result is reliable enough to inform a tentative decision for intervention and for further investigation.
| Conclusion|| |
This study found a generally poor knowledge of breast cancer issues among participants which was worse for breast cancer risk factors than for signs and symptoms. The knowledge of key elements that could facilitate timely prevention and early diagnosis was very low. In some cases where good knowledge was recorded, it could not be attributed to breast cancer consciousness.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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