October is officially designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s crucial to understand the facts about breast cancer. Statistics show that 1 in every 27 South African women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Although men can also be affected, the incidence rate is much lower than in women.
Breast cancer is becoming more prevalent among South Africans, and it’s one of the most common cancers among women. It’s most prevalent among White and Asian women and the second most common among African and Coloured women.
Early detection is crucial to improve the chances of survival. Regular self-examinations and clinical examinations like mammograms can help in detecting the disease.
Here are some warning signs to look out for:
- lump in the breast or armpit
- swelling of the breast with an increase in prominent veins
- change in skin color or orange peel-like appearance of the skin
- inverted nipples milky, yellowish, or bloody discharge
People at risk of breast cancer include those with a family history of cancers, those who started menstruating before the age of 12 and entered menopause after the age of 55, women who never had a child or had a first child after the age of 30, long-term hormone replacement treatment, and those who generally lead an unhealthy lifestyle.
South African women overall have a one in nine chance of getting breast cancer. Up to 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer. While many are treated successfully with hormone therapies like letrozole and anastrozole, some ER-positive tumours don’t respond or build up resistance over time. They can come back, grow, and spread to other parts of the body.