What Is Breast Cancer?

When abnormal cells in one part of the body grow and divide out of control, this creates a mass of tissue called a malignant tumour known as cancer. Breast cancer originates in the breast tissue, which can spread to other parts of the body and can develop depending on a person’s age, personal health history, genetic factors and diet. 

Breast Cancer Facts

  • According to the National Cancer Registry (2004), breast cancer is the number one cancer among all women, except for black women where it is the number two cancer. The lifetime risk of all women developing breast cancer is 1:29.
  • According to a study completed at a Spanish University, women who do aerobic exercise and resistance training enjoy a better fitness and quality of life. Exercise pumps up the immune system and cuts the levels of the oestrogen hormone, which can fuel tumour growth.
  • The risk for developing breast cancer increases as a woman ages.
  • One in 26 South African women are likely to get breast cancer.
  • 70% of breast cancers are found through self-exams.
  • Thanks to early detection, better screening, increased awareness, and new treatment options, breast cancer deaths have been declining since 1990.
  • According to the American Cancer Society, over 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed each year.

Common Types Of Breast Cancer

  • Ductal carcinoma. This is the most common form of breast cancer. It starts in the ducts (tubes) that move milk from the breast to the nipple.
  • Lobular carcinoma. This cancer starts in the parts of the breast that produce milk, called lobules.

Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

  • A breast lump
  • Thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue of the breast
  • Bloody discharge from the nipple
  • Change in the shape or size of a breast
  • Changes such as dimpling to the skin over the breast
  • An inverted nipple or a change in the shape or position of the nipple
  • Flaking, peeling or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
  • Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast (like the skin of an orange) 

Prevention Techniques

  • Limit or cut out alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more than one drink per day.
  • Don’t smoke. Accumulating evidence has suggested a link between the risk of developing breast cancer and smoking, particularly in premenopausal women.
  • Watch your weight. Your risk of developing breast cancer increases by being overweight or obese.
  • Exercise. Doing physical activity can help decrease the risk of developing breast cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly for healthy adults, as well as strength training at least twice a week.
  • Breast-feed longer. Breast-feeding can play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the chances of decreasing this disease are.
  • Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy. Using combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. If you are taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options. You might also be able to manage your symptoms with nonhormonal therapies, such as physical activity. If you decide that the benefits of short-term hormone therapy outweigh the risks, use the lowest dose that works for you.
  • Avoid exposure to environmental pollution and radiation. Medical-imaging methods, such as computerised tomography, use high doses of radiation, which have been linked with the risk of breast cancer. To reduce your exposure, have these tests done only when absolutely necessary. Some research also suggests a link between breast cancer and the exposure to chemicals found in some workplaces, gasoline fumes and vehicle exhaust.