Breast cancer is a cancer that originates in a person’s breast tissue. The vast majority of breast cancer cases occur in women, although it can also affect men. Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women, and one of the biggest killers.
There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of a woman getting breast cancer. A woman’s likelihood of getting breast cancer increases if another woman in her family – her mother, sister, or daughter – has had breast or ovarian cancer. A woman who has had cancer in one breast has an increased likelihood of getting cancer in the other breast. Women who have had benign (non-cancerous) cysts (lumps) in their breasts are also at increased risk for breast cancer. This is why it’s so important to check regularly for lumps in the breast and to visit your nearest clinic for check-ups.
Breast cancer is fatal if left untreated, but if found early, breast cancer can be cured through surgery, chemotherapy, and/or other types of treatment. The best ways to catch breast cancer early are self-exams and regular mammograms. While breast cancer occurs mainly with women, men can also get breast cancer.
How to do a breast self-exam: -
A breast self-exam involves looking at and feeling your breasts for evidence of any change, such as lumps or thickening of the tissue. Here are the steps for conducting a breast self-exam:
* Look at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your hands on your hips. Look for any change in your breasts size, shape, or colour. Also check for dimpling or puckering of skin, a change in your nipples position or nipples pushed inward, or any sign of redness, soreness, or swelling.
* Raise your arms and look for the same changes. Also check for any discharge coming from your nipples.
* Check your breasts when lying on your back, using your right hand to check the left breast and left hand to check the right. Feel the entire breast, using a firm, consistent, circular motion, from top to bottom and left to right. Check carefully for any lumps or abnormalities.
* Feel your breasts while standing or sitting, with one arm up in the air. Women often perform this step in the shower. Check your entire breast using the motion described in the previous step.
Its important to perform these steps on a regular basis, preferably once a month, so that you can easily tell if changes occur. If you discover anything unusual during a self-exam, consult your doctor or go to a health clinic immediately.
A mammogram – a simple medical procedure that screens for breast cancer – is also an effective way to catch breast cancer early. The Cancer Association of South Africa recommends that all women over 40 receive an annual mammogram. To learn more about mammograms, consult a doctor or health professional.