What do you need to know about breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the most common female cancer in South Africa, but men can develop breast cancer too. All lumps should be investigated.
Signs and symptoms
• Irritated or itchy breasts
• Presence of a lump in or near the breast or in the underarm area
• A change in the size or shape of the breast
• A dimple or puckering in the skin of the breast
• A nipple turned inward into the breast
• Fluid, other than breast milk, coming from the nipple, especially if it’s bloody
• Scaly, red or swollen skin on the breast, nipple or areola (the dark area of skin around the nipple)
• A change in breast colour
• Changes in touch (the breast may feel hard, tender or warm)
• Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples
Age: The risk for developing breast cancer increases with age. Most advanced
breast cancer cases are found in women over the age of 50.
Gender: Women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men.
Family history: There is a higher risk for breast cancer if there’s a history of a close relative who has had breast, uterine, ovarian or colon cancer.
Race: It has become most prevalent among white and Indian women, and the
second most common cancer among black and coloured women.
Genetic predisposition: Some people have gene mutations that make them more likely to develop breast cancer.
Alcohol use: Research shows that drinking alcoholic beverages (beer, wine
and liquor) increases a woman’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
Menstrual cycle: Women who started menstruating before 12, or who went
through menopause late (after age 55), have an increased risk for breast cancer.
Obesity: Obesity has been linked to breast cancer, although this link is controversial. The theory is that obese women produce more oestrogen, which can fuel the development of breast cancer.
Child-bearing: Women who were pregnant for the first time over the age
of 30, or women who never had children, have a higher risk.
Radiation: Persons who have had radiation therapy as a child, or young adult to treat cancer of the chest area, have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Women may reduce their risk of breast cancer by:
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Doing regular exercise (such as brisk walking)
• Limiting alcohol use and high-fat foods
• Breastfeeding their children for as long as possible
While there is no guaranteed cure for cancer, greater awareness, self-examination and preparation is key to prevention and effective treatment.
• The Guardian – Cancer detection liquid biopsies
• International breast cancer month – 2015
• Article – A woman is never too old for a mammogram
• Interview: Dr Sarah Rayne
• Article – 60% of women who get breast cancer gene test dont need it
• Article – Risk factors for breast cancer
• Article – How is breast cancer diagnosed?