October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, worldwide!

In South Africa, breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women.  Screening is all about early diagnosis, which saves lives, and our aim is to emphasize its importance during the pandemic – Cancer does not take a break, even during lockdown!

Prof. Carol-Ann Benn, a renowned surgeon and one of SA’s top experts in breast health, reiterates the importance of screening in her video below.

Be wise and keep on screening.

Breast Cancer Facts 

  • One in 31 women in South Africa is likely to get breast cancer.
  • Breast cancer in women is the second most common cancer in the world and the most common cancer in women in South Africa.
  • Breast cancer is the second biggest cause of cancer-related death among women in South Africa, after cervical cancer.
  • Breast cancer is not a death sentence and can be beaten.

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Early Signs of breast cancer include the following:

  • Changes in the shape of the nipple
  • Breast pain that doesn’t go away after your next period
  • A lump that doesn’t go away after your next period
  • Nipple discharge from one breast that is clear, red, brown or yellow
  • Unexplained redness, swelling, skin irritation, itchiness or a rash on the breast
  • Swelling or a lump around the collarbone or under the arm

Later Signs of breast cancer include the following:

  • Retraction or inward turning of the nipple
  • Enlargement of one breast
  • Dimpling of the breast surface
  • An existing lump that gets bigger
  • An “orange peel” texture to the skin
  • Vaginal pain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit
  • Visible veins on the breast

Types of Breast Cancer

Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC)

  • Metastatic breast cancer is also classified as stage 4 breast cancer. The cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This usually includes the lungs, liver, bones or brain.

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ is a non-invasive cancer where abnormal cells have been found in the lining of the breast milk duct.
  • The atypical cells have not spread outside of the ducts into the surrounding breast tissues.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ is very early cancer that is highly treatable, but if it’s left untreated or undetected, it can spread into the surrounding breast tissue.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)

  • The abnormal cancer cells that began forming in the milk ducts have spread beyond the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue.
  • Invasive cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.
  • It is also sometimes called infiltrative ductal carcinoma.
  • IDC is the most common type of breast cancer, making up nearly 70-80% of all breast cancer diagnoses.

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)

  • A diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer means that the three most common types of receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth-oestrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene are not present in the cancer tumour.
  • This means that the breast cancer cells have tested negative for hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 1 (HER-2), oestrogen receptors (ER), and progesterone receptors (PR).

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)

  • Inflammatory breast cancer is an aggressive and fast-growing breast cancer in which cancer cells infiltrate the skin and lymph vessels of the breast.
  • It often produces no distinct tumour or lump that can be felt and isolated within the breast. But when the lymph vessels become blocked by the breast cancer cells, symptoms begin to appear.

Other less common types of breast cancers

  • Paget’s disease
  • Medullary breast cancer
  • Mucinous breast cancer
  • Inflammatory breast cancer

This article was first published in

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