Breast Cancer: Factors and symptoms to look out for

A1blBreast Cancer Awareness Month falls in October each year. According to the South African National Cancer Registry, one in 29 women in South Africa is diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast cancer, like other types of cancers, is treatable when detected early.

Preventative screening helps to detect early signs of the disease. But, although highly recommended, is it enough?

Let’s look at some of the contributing factors that increase your chance of developing breast cancer:

  1. Alcohol 

The use of alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of getting breast cancer.

  1. Being overweight or obese 

Obesity is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, especially for post-menopausal women whose weight gain took place during adulthood. Also, the risk seems to be higher if the extra fat is in the waist area.

The link between weight and breast cancer risk is complex but health experts recommend that women maintain a healthy weight throughout life.

  1. Lack of exercise 

Studies show that exercise reduces breast cancer risk.

Health experts suggest that women should exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.

  1. High-fat diets 

Studies have shown that breast cancer is less common in countries where the typical diet is low in fat.

A healthy low-fat diet includes five or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day, choosing wholegrain products and limiting the amount of processed and red meats.

  1. Tobacco smoke 

Smoking is linked to breast cancer.

This is another reason to stop smoking and to avoid being around second-hand smoke.

Symptoms of breast cancer

The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A lump that is painless, hard and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But some cancers are tender, soft and rounded. It’s important to have anything unusual checked by a doctor.

Let’s look at some of the other signs of breast cancer that we should be on the look-out for:

  • Swelling of all or part of the breast.
  • Skin irritation or dimpling.
  • Breast pain.
  • Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward.
  • Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin.
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk.
  • A lump in the underarm area. 

Should you detect symptoms, what’s the next step?

The next step is Staging. This is the process of finding out how widespread the cancer is at the time it is found. The stage of a cancer is the most important factor in choosing a treatment option. The stage is based on the results of the physical exam, biopsy and other tests conducted by your doctor.

The message this Breast Cancer Awareness Month is: empower yourself by looking after your health and having regular check-ups.

Discovery Health offers the Screening and Preventative Benefit on all plans, which includes one mammogram (for both males and females) per year. This benefit does not affect your day-to-day benefits. If you would like more information on this benefit, please contact me.

CarolynCarolyn Seely
Medical Aid Administrator
0861 111 376

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.