Polokwane Observer

Breast cancer: better to know your breasts

- Maretha Swanepoel

According to Cansa, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women.

Approximat­ely 19.4 million women from the age of 15 are at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

There is a higher risk to get breast cancer as women grow older, however, many women younger than 40 are diagnosed with this cancer.

Other risk factors include obesity, unhealthy dietary habits, smoking and consuming alcohol.

Cancer cells are cells that grow and multiply but that do not die as normal cells do. They will spend all of their time multiplyin­g and not working as normal cells do. These cells can cause a tumour to grow.

Women are advised to do selfexamin­ations on a regular basis and to undergo a mammogram annually. According to www.mybreast.org.za, 70% of breast cancers are detected by selfexamin­ation.

The best way to reduce the number of people who die from breast cancer, is early detection. There is, however, no definite symptom to indicate that you have breast cancer.

Most symptoms are also present with non-cancer problems, but breast cancer is often presented by a lump in the breast. Unlike most other cancers, breast cancer is not painful.


• Changes in the size and shape of the breast.

• Thickening of the skin of the nipple.

• Eczema, itching or scale patches on the nipple.

• Nipple turning inwards.

• Thickening of dimpling of the skin of the breast.


There is a team of people involved in the treatment of breast cancer. These include a breast surgeon, reconstruc­tive surgeon, a radiologis­t who does the mammograms and biopsies, chemothera­py and radiation specialist­s, a psychologi­st and survivorsh­ip specialist. Treatment of the breasts include surgery and radiation, as well as chemothera­py, hormonal treatments and immunother­apy. A mastectomy is the oldest and well-known method of surgically treating breast cancer.

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