Spread of breast cancer in a group treated in Nairobi

By Gatonye Gathura

The number of births to a woman, breastfeeding and contraceptive use have been linked to the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body.

A study at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, shows, for example, breast cancer in women with few births, early menopause or did not breastfeed is likely to spread to the brain.

The spread of cancer from the original location to other parts of the body, called metastasis, the authors say is important in planning its treatment and control.

The researchers led by Dr Shahin Sayed of Aga Khan University Hospital investigated the records of 1,074 breast cancer patients treated at the hospital between 2012 and 2018.

The study published on 10th July 2019 in the Journal of Global Oncology, had then focused on 125 patients who had metastatic cancer.

Of these, 58 per cent of patients had metastases to the bone, 14 per cent to the brain, 57 per cent to lungs, and 50 per cent to the liver. Ninety-two patients or 74 per cent developed metastases at more than one site.

When cancer spreads from one location to another, continues to be known by the original name. For example, breast cancer spread to the brain still remains breast cancer.

In this study, also involving Columbia University, US, says in women diagnosed with breast cancer at older ages and with more births the disease was likely to move to the bones.

 “Metastasis to the brain was associated with early menopause, lower births and not breastfeeding,” says the study.

The study also linked the development of cancer in the study group to the use of contraceptives. Also, women who have early menarche were at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

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