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Breast. 2006 Jun;15(3):399-409. Epub 2005 Aug 8.

The severity, outcome and challenges of breast cancer in Nigeria.

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Department of Surgery, College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University/Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.


Breast cancer is a very common disease in Nigeria. It is often associated with a poor prognosis for a variety of reasons. This study was designed to investigate the challenges, severity, outcome and factors influencing the outcome of the management of breast cancer in a Nigerian Teaching Hospital with a view to finding ways to improve the current dismal outlook for patients with the disease. The clinical records of patients seen with breast cancer over an 8-year period (1996-2003) in the two units of the Teaching hospital were reviewed. The two units serve the urban, semi-urban and rural communities of some parts of southwestern Nigeria. Two hundred and twelve patients with breast cancer were seen over the 8-year period of the study. The mean age was 48 years (23-85 years). There were 211 female and one male. One hundred and three patients (48.7%) had either postprimary or tertiary education. A proportion of 66.7% were premenopausal, 79.2% had pregnancy early in life and were multi-parous. These also gave a history of prolonged breast-feeding of their children. The tumour was self-detected in 195 (92%). The mean duration of symptoms was 11.2 months (9 days-7 years). Pain in 100 patients (47%) was the most common symptom and the cancer was in the left breast in 113 (53.3%). Localized cancer was in the upper outer quadrant in 85 (40%), whereas the whole breast was involved in 55 patients (26%). Loco-regional features of advanced cancer were seen in 157 patients (74%). The tumour was fungating in 83 (39%) and there was clinical evidence of systemic metastasis in 28 patients (13%). One hundred and seventy-four (80.6%) patients had advanced disease (stages 3 and 4). Definitive surgery was possible in 185 patients (87.3%), neoadjuvant chemotherapy was required in 65 (30.6%), postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy in 178 (84%; drug combinations were CMF-cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, 5-fluorouracil, CMFP-CMF plus prednisone, and CAF-cyclophosphamide, adriamycin, 5-fluorouracil), tamoxifen was administered in all the patients. Only 70 (33.2%) patients were known to have received radiotherapy among those referred to the Radiotherapy unit, with associated fair treatment compliance after surgery. Outpatient clinic attendance was also very poor, only 27 (12.7%) were still being seen in the clinic, 83 patients (39%) were known to be dead and 102 patients were lost to follow-up. The mean follow-up period was 8.4 months (1 week-6 years). In conclusion, breast cancer is very common in our area of practice in Nigeria; the majority of our patients were young and premenopausal women presenting in the advanced stages of cancer. Treatment compliance was very poor. The majority of the patients were dead or lost to follow-up within a year of diagnosis.

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