Breast cancer is a topic that touches the lives of countless women and families around the world.  It’s not just a disease, it’s a battle fought by strong and resilient warriors.  In this breast cancer awareness blog, we aim to provide you with com information, resources, and inspiration to better understand and combat this disease.  Whether you’re looking for prevention tips or early detection methods, we’ve got you covered.

Apart from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women of all races, with a lifetime risk of 1 in 27 in South Africa, according to the 2019 National Cancer Registry (NCR)

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the cells of the breast tissue.  It primarily affects the cells in the ducts or lobules of the breast.  The human breast is made up of three main parts: lobules (glands that produce milk), ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple), and stromal tissue (which includes fatty and connective tissue).

Approximately 19.4 million women aged 15 years and older live at-risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer – the cancer affecting women in South Africa the most. In 2013, deaths from breast cancer and cancers of the female genital tract, accounted for 0.7% and 1% of all deaths in South African respectively.

When breast cancer develops, it usually begins in the cells lining the ducts and is referred to as ductal carcinoma.  In some cases, it may start in the lobules and is called lobular carcinoma.  Breast cancer can also occur in other parts of the breast, such as the connective tissue or the skin.

Breast cancer can vary in its characteristics, including how quickly it grows and whether it has the potential to spread to other parts of the body.  The specific type of breast cancer is determined based on the characteristics of the cancer cells, and this information is crucial in determining the most appropriate treatment plan.

Early detection through methods like regular breast self-exams, clinical breast exams, and mammograms is essential for improving the prognosis of breast cancer.  Treatment options for breast cancer often include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy, depending on the type and stage of the cancer.

While not all breast lumps indicate cancer, they should be investigated, especially if accompanied by other changes in breasts or the under-arm area, such as lumps, texture changes, thickening, dimpling, changes in shape or size of nipples or breasts, tenderness, discharge, rash or swelling, or one breast suddenly being slightly larger than the other.

Research has shown that a regular Breast Self-Examination (BSE), plays an important role in discovering breast cancer, compared to finding a breast lump by chance.

A BSE should be done once a month, preferably at the same time of day, following a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Breast cancer is a complex disease, and the treatment approach is highly individualized.  It is important for individuals to be aware of their risk factors, engage in regular screenings, and consult with healthcare professionals if they have concerns about breast health.  Increased awareness, research, and improved treatments have led to better outcomes for many individuals with breast cancer, but it remains a significant health challenge.

Breast cancer risk factors are characteristics or conditions that can increase an individual’s likelihood of developing breast cancer.  It’s important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee that someone will develop breast cancer, and many people with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors.  Understanding these risk factors can help individuals make informed decisions about their health, including taking steps for early detection and prevention. Here is some common breast cancer risk factors:

Gender, age, family history, genetic mutations, oral contraceptives, diet, breast density, lack of physical activity

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for overall well-being and can also play a role in reducing the risk of breast cancer. While there are no guarantees, adopting a healthy lifestyle can contribute to a lower risk of developing breast cancer and can improve overall health.

Together, we can raise awareness, improve prevention, and contribute to finding a cure for breast cancer.  Your voice, your knowledge, and your actions matter in this journey toward a world free from breast cancer.