Breast Massage: Is it Necessary?

By Ekemini Simon



Few days ago,, a campaign on breast massage saturated the streets of Uyo and online space. A glance on the first three words ” Nuak Eba mfo” meaning “Massage your breast” as inscribed on the placards carried by beautiful ladies on pink sent orgasmic sensation up the cerebrum.

The call to action was not strange neither was it a difficult one for men, if their assistance is sought. It is a task men would without hesitation accept to do. However, the “nuak eba mfo” campaign reminded us of the ” twins of a gazelle, which feed among the lilies” described by King Solomon in the scriptures.

For the married ones, those words must have thrown them into an appreciation of the experience they get from the fulfilment of Proverbs 5:19 which urge the men to ” Let her breasts satisfy (them) at all times.” That is often the reward they get when they offer themselves willingly to assist in the massage.

However, the last two words on the placard “yom itiat”, meaning “search for lump” takes the edge off the accelerating adrenaline of men who read the inscription. It leaves room for a second thought. The message in full ” Nuak Eba mfo yom itiat” meaning “Massage your breast in search for lump” suggests that the breast massage this time wouldn’t be business as usual. There is simply more to this particular type of breast massage.

Why then do the women have to massage their breast in search for lump? Many women asked the question during the rally. And it wouldn’t be out of place if you enquire to have insight too.

The over 500 women drawn from Medical Women Association of Nigeria, accompanied by National Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, among others who took part in the walk were on ground to provide answers to this question.

The answer is simply, to check whether one has signs of cancer of the breast. Obviously, this time, the pummeling is far from sensual delectation. Bizzare and invidious as this may be, one may be desiring to know what a breast cancer really is and what could cause a cancer growth on such a luscious and multifunctional organ of the body.

Causes and Prevalence

Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. The cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. The tumor is malignant (cancer) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. Experts say that breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, although men can get breast cancer too.

Breast cancer has become a scourge of our time. It constitutes a major public health issue globally with over 1 million new cases diagnosed annually, resulting in over 400,000 annual deaths. Statistics show that about 4.4 million women are living with cancer.

In Nigeria, cancer has reached epidemic proportions. Professor O. Olopade, a breast cancer specialist and director of the cancer risk clinic in the Departments of Medicine and Human Genetics, University of Chicago Hospitals says only 10 percent of breast cancer patients in Nigeria can survive for five years.

He said data on cancer in Nigeria are largely unreliable because of many factors hindering information collection and documentation. Globocan in 2002, says breast cancer is responsible for about 16% of all cancer related deaths in Nigeria.

In a recent publication by Okobia et al (2006): ”Late presentation of patients at advanced stages when little or no benefit can be derived from any form of therapy is the hallmark of breast cancer in Nigerian women.”

Every woman is prone to breast cancer.

Despite contentions over data, experts say mortality caused by breast cancer has remained the same for 40 years. Women of middle age succumb more frequently and there is a high-risk age group which is, 40 to 65. The risk grows with age.

More so, women in so-called developed communities are more prone to breast cancer than are those living in less developed communities. Hence, some doctors are inclined to see a link between breast cancer and the degree of a community’s development. Others regard fewer children, artificial feeding, greater intake of fatty foods—all characteristic of life in developed lands—as the potential causes.

Note that breast cancer starts as a small, painless lump. It grows in size, may spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit and sometimes to the lymph nodes where the ribs join the breastbone. As long as it is halted at these nodes, it is operable and curable.

Early Detection—Surest Way to Combat Breast Cancer

There is a consensus by Doctors that the key to curing breast cancer is its early detection. After preliminary biopsy, surgical removal is possible. The smaller the lump at detection, the greater the probability of a cure, which may be as high as 95 percent.
This is why awareness creation to alert women, and teach self-examination and tips on periodic medical check-ups is necessary.

Akwa Ibom women have stood strong in this campaign. Coordinator of the campaign in the State and President Medical Women Association of Nigeria, (MWAN), Dr Udeme Umanah, said MWAN carries out free monthly screening for women every 3rd Tuesday of the month at MWAN secretariat, 127 Atiku Abubakar, Uyo, (same building with the Christian Pilgrimage Board).

She said “Registration for the Well Woman Clinic and cancer screening is N1,500 annually. The doctors volunteer their time for free. You also get subsidized mammogram and Papsmear for those aged 40 and above” Yet, what role has the State Government played in awareness campaigns and screening for breast cancer?

A look into the budget of the State from 2017 through 2020 shows that nothing was budgeted for awareness campaign on cancer.

In addition, for the Screening for noncommunicable diseases example diabetes, cancer, hypertension among others, no sum was budgeted in the 2017 approved budget through 2019 approved budget, for the programme.

Nevertheless, in the 2020 approved budget, coded as programme number 50323109, N3 million is budgeted for Screening for noncommunicable diseases example diabetes, cancer, hypertension e.t.c.

Be that as it may, report shows that 90 percent of the lumps are discovered by palpating (feeling) the breast. Besides this method, there are modern scientific methods of diagnosis. So what should you do if you discover a lump?

First, a false sense of shame or fear could put your life in jeopardy. Remember that a tumor may or may not be malignant. In fact, most lumps are said to be harmless. Nevertheless, experts advise such a woman to consult a doctor at once. Never forget that if it is cancer, the hope of successful treatment is greater if the disease is diagnosed at an early stage and the lump is surgically removed. It is said that, in most cases, the removal of cancerous lumps prolongs a person’s life. If there is no new cancer after some years, the stage of “no comeback” may be reached. On the other hand, a malignant tumor may double in size every 55 to 110 days, even in as few as 22 days. So, of what methods of early detection can you avail yourself? The following suggestion is given by an Expert in Mastology, Dr Jackson Okafor.

Methods of Early Diagnosis

The epithelial tissue in the breast goes through various stages until it develops into subclinical cancer, that is, the type not detected by the usual clinical tests, and then into clinically detectable cancer. Discovery before it reaches the palpable stage would be more desirable. Modern equipment makes this possible.

Mammography. This is conventional X ray with the use of special film and an apparatus adapted to the breast.

Thermography, or heat scanning, looks for tumors by means of infrared radiation. It is based on the principle that carcinomas give off a higher temperature than the normal breast tissue or than benign tumors. This method has been improved and produces a photographic temperature map of the breast in just two minutes. The main drawback seems to be its high cost.

Plate Thermography works by placing on the breast a plate containing liquid crystals. According to the coloration of the crystals, the physician can make his diagnosis. However, some doctors claim that the older chamber thermography is more accurate.

Xeroradiography has been in use for some over 45 years. It is a simple X ray but with a selenium-coated aluminum plate. Details of tissue are made visible and may be examined in a single exposure.

Treatment plus Compassion

Akwa Ibom State currently does not have a comprehensive cancer care and treatment centre, the MWAN project coordinator said. However, most cancer patients access care at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital.

Dr. Umanah said though UUTH is not offering comprehensive care for cancer, efforts are made to improve the situation. She says ” it is one of the things we are pushing for. It is not just enough to screen and diagnose the cancer, we need to help these women get care. We are hoping the government will see the need to establish a comprehensive cancer care centre.

” We are working very hard towards it. Her Excellency, Deaconess Martha Udom Emmanuel is our patron, and she has keen interest in cancer screening and care.”

However, during treatment, there is always the problem of choice. Some women prefer radiation treatment to a mastectomy.

What Does the Future Hold?

Despite the efforts made so far, it is clear there is much to be done especially in financing owing to the cost of treatment.

Dr Umanah said MWAN is out to raise N150m to help indigenous cancer patients access care.

She is optimistic that with more interest generated towards cancer care tangible results will trickle in in future.

“The concept of cancer is still evolving among our people. We are happy with the response so far. Over 500 women and men were involved in the cancer walk. This was impressive being that it was a maiden edition,” she assures.

Cancer care is not a battle to be allowed in the hands of women alone.

To partake in saving the womenfolk from this threatening disease, Umana said “All hands need to be on deck. We can only defeat cancer if we work together.”

She calls on those who desire to push the deadly disease to its tether to donate to the N150m Cancer Trust Fund with Account details: 0212397724, GTB, MWAN Project Account .

Don’t forget to remind your wife, sister, and friend to get a breast massage. It can save life.

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