Breast cancer is the most common cancer in South Africa
Statistics show that about one in twenty nine women will develop breast cancer at some point. It’s the most common cancer in South Africa. Breast cancer can occur in men, but is much rarer.
The incidence of breast cancer appears to be rising, probably due to better screening. Fortunately, cure rates are also rising. During the past decade, deaths from breast cancer have fallen by 20%.
How breast cancer develops
Breast cancer develops in the milk-producing glands in the breast, or the passages or ducts that deliver milk to the nipples. If left untreated, some breast cancers can spread into the surrounding tissue and other parts of the body.
Most cases are picked up when a woman notices a lump in her breast or through routine screening with mammography. Nine out of ten lumps aren’t dangerous, but they should be checked with your doctor.
Be Breast Aware
You can help yourself as much as possible by being breast aware, reporting any changes in your breasts to your doctor and, for women aged between 50 and 70, attending mammograms as prescribed by your GP. This may be once a year or even once every two years.
It is generally understood that mammograms are not as effective in pre-menopausal women as the density of the breast tissue makes it more difficult to detect problems. The average age of the menopause is 50, which is why this is the earliest age eligible for free screening in the UK. Women with a strong family history may well be advised to have regular mammogram screening before the age of 50.
Breast cancer risk is linked to age
According to Cancer Research UK, the risk of developing breast cancer is strongly linked to age – nearly three-quarters of cases occur in women over 65. However, a recent Breast Cancer Care poll showed that 6 out of 10 women are unaware of this fact and, whilst free screening is still available to women aged over 70 upon request, only 25% of this age group took up this opportunity.