Breast cancer awareness
Breast cancer is the leading cancer diagnosed in women in South Africa. Approximately 11 patients are diagnosed with breast cancer every week at Tygerberg Hospital. Between 15 and 25 new breast cancer patients are diagnosed every week at Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH). At GSH Walk-in Breast Clinic saw a 10% increase in patients diagnosed with breast cancer during the 2018/2019 period.
Although these figures can be scary, there’s a lot you can do, not only to help yourself but also to spread awareness about breast cancer.
You can lower your cancer and health risk by cutting out lifestyle factors that can increase your cancer risk. Learn to recognise warning signs and annual medical check-ups and cancer screening appointments can help early detection, as symptoms don’t always present until cancer has spread.
Early detection and self-examination are vital
For women, monthly breast self-examination 2 days after the last day of your period is an important screening method. Women over the age of 45 should consider going for a regular mammogram. Younger women have denser breast tissue and would benefit more from an ultrasound examination than a mammogram.
Family history plays an important role in determining how prone someone is to developing cancer. This is especially true for immediate family members (mom, father or sister) who were diagnosed at a relatively young age. Be sure to discuss all these issues and concerns with your doctor.
It’s also important for you to know what’s normal for your body and to be aware of symptoms of cancer, as early detection improves the chances of successful treatment. We suggest that you do a simple monthly breast self-exam to check your own breasts for lumps or anything that seems unusual.
Male breast cancer
Although male breast cancer is rare, Breast Health Foundation recorded that in South Africa, 1-3% of all breast cancers happen in men. Many men don't know they can get breast cancer. They may not notice a change or think it’s important and may be embarrassed to say anything. This can delay diagnosis. As a result, breast cancers may be found later in men. The male breast is much smaller than the female breast - this makes it more likely that cancer will spread to the chest wall.
Fact sheet for male breast cancer.
Risk factors for breast cancer
- Family history
- Lifestyle choices
- Existing medical conditions
Finding breast cancer early can improve survival.
Signs and symptoms
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. The signs and symptoms for men and women are the same.
Other possible signs of breast cancer can include:
- 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, and
- a lump in the underarm area.
Treatment of breast cancer has improved greatly in recent years. If detected early, breast cancer patients now have an excellent prognosis. Everyone isn’t the same though, and many factors will influence survival including your age, tumour characteristics, the stage of the disease and the treatment plan you’ve chosen. Once you’ve been diagnosed, your doctor will discuss the relevant treatment plan with you in detail. The same treatments are used for breast cancer in men and women.
To treat your cancer, you may have one or more of the following treatments:
- Hormone therapy
- Biological therapy
Lifestyle changes that may minimise your risk
- Follow a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Stop smoking.
- Use alcohol in moderation.
- Try to have your children before the age of 30 if possible and breastfeed.
Get screened today
The Western Cape Government has Breast Clinics at the following hospitals:
Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) Outpatient Department Breast Clinic
You can find more information about the Groote Schuur Hospital Breast Clinic here.
- You must be referred to the GSH Breast Clinic.
- The clinic only operates on a Friday morning.
- All new patients must be early as the cut-off time to accept new patients is 9am.
- No patients will be accepted after 9am unless they’re from country cases, using Health-net transport, are urgent referrals or if prior arrangements have been made with referring doctors.
Tel: 021 404 5523
Tygerberg Hospital Breast Clinic
You can find more information about the Tygerberg Hospital Breast Clinic here.
- You must be referred to the Tygerberg Hospital Breast Clinic.
- You don’t need an appointment.
- The clinic is operational from Monday to Friday.
- They see between 30 to 40 patients per day.
Walk-in Breast Clinic
Tel: 021 938 5406 /5205 /5203
Mitchells Plain Hospital Breast Clinic
- You must be referred to the Mitchells Plain Breast Clinic.
- The clinic provides immediate diagnostic evaluation of a patient with a suspicious lump in their breast.
- The clinic runs on a Monday from 8am to 12pm.
- Patients must arrive early.
Mitchells Plain Hospital Breast Clinic
Tel: 021 377 4333
If you or one of your friends has been diagnosed with breast cancer, these organisations can offer support: