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What causes breast cancer?

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease that develops when normal body cells change and begin to grow in an abnormal and uncontrolled way. In some types of cancer the uncontrolled growth causes a lump/swelling. In other types of cancer a large number of abnormal cells results for example in blood cancer called leukaemia.

Does Cancer affect children?

Yes it does affect children. At the Uganda cancer Institute we see on average 1700 new patients with cancer each year, of these about 700 (40%) are children. The cancers that affect children most often occur in the developing cells like bone marrow, blood, kidneys and nervous system tissues. The most common cancer is called Burkitts lymphoma, which most commonly affects the facial bones.

What are the known or suspected causes of Childhood Cancer?

The causes of childhood cancers are largely unknown. A few conditions, such as Down syndrome, other specific chromosomal and genetic abnormalities, and ionizing radiation exposures, explain a small percentage of cases. Environmental causes of childhood cancer have long been suspected by many scientists but have been difficult to pin down, partly because cancer in children is rare and because it is difficult to identify past exposure levels in children, particularly during potentially important periods such as pregnancy or even prior to conception. In addition, each of the distinctive types of childhood cancers develops differently—with a potentially wide variety of causes and a unique clinical course in terms of age, race, gender, and many other factors.

What have studies shown about the possible causes of Childhood Cancer?

• High levels of ionizing radiation like from radiotherapy have been linked with increased risk of some childhood cancers. • Children with cancer treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be at increased risk for developing a second primary cancer. • Children with AIDS have an increased risk of developing certain cancers like Kaposi sarcoma • Children with Down syndrome have an increased risk of developing leukemia. • Ultrasound use during pregnancy has not been linked with childhood cancer in numerous large studies. • Residential magnetic field exposure from power lines has not been significantly associated with childhood leukemias. • Pesticides have been suspected to be involved in the development of certain forms of childhood cancer based on interview data. However, interview results have been inconsistent and have not yet been validated by physical evidence of pesticides in the child’s body or environment. • No consistent findings have been observed linking specific occupational exposures of parents to the development of childhood cancers. • Several studies have found no link between maternal cigarette smoking before pregnancy and childhood cancers, but increased risks have been related to the father’s smoking habits in studies in the United Kingdom and China. • While in the Western world little evidence has been found to link specific viruses or other infectious agents to the development of most types of childhood cancers, at the Uganda Cancer Institute we have found that 60% of the cancers we see in children have an infectious cause. Burkitts lymphoma is caused by the Ebstein Barr virus, Kaposi Sarcoma by Human Herpes Virus

What is Breast Cancer?

It is important to note that there are individual who develop breast cancer and it is hard to identify any risk factor to blame. This means that we all need to be always aware of the health of our breast by doing regular self breast exam and screening. Breast Cancer is a cancer that starts in the breast. When advanced, it can present in other parts of the body especially the backbone, lungs and liver.

How common is breast cancer and who can develop the disease?

Breast Cancer is a very common cancer throughout the world affecting predominantly women, one in every one hundred cases is a man. In African women it commonly develops at an earlier age but often they present late when the disease has spread.

How can one know they have breast cancer?

Symptoms and Signs of breast cancer The following may be present when one is developing/ has developed breast cancer; Lump (Swelling) in the breast. Most swellings in breasts especially in ladies in their teens and twenties are not cancer but it is always important to know what any swelling in the breast is. Swelling in the arm pit. Change in breast size Skin dimpling (orange peel skin appearance) Nipple inversion or sunken nipple Spontaneous single nipple discharge, especially when bloody. Breast pain. In breast cancer pain is usually a symptom of advanced disease. Breast ulcer (developing a wound on the breast with a swelling).

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