Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among SA Women, affecting one in 28 women, and in urban communities the incidence is as high as one in eight, according to National Health Laboratory statistics.
To commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October the Breast Imaging Society of South Africa (BISSA) has urged SA Women to regularly self-examine and have an annual mammogram from the age of 40.
“Early breast cancer detection reduces deaths, extends life expectancy, and improves life quality, and early detection through mammography also enables less extensive surgery, fewer mastectomies, and less frequent or aggressive chemotherapy,” said Prof Jackie Smilg, chair of BISSA, which is a sub-speciality group of the Radiological Society of South Africa (RSSA).
She warns breast cancer also affects SA Women of all ages, races and socio-economic circumstances.
Through regular screening one is more likely to find breast cancers when they are small and still limited to the breast area – this is important since the size and extent of the spread are the crucial in predicting the outcome of a breast cancer diagnosis, explained Prof Smilg.
Prof Smilg denounced the myth claiming the radiation used in modern mammography causes breast cancer, saying, “There is simply no scientific evidence to support the idea”.
She urged women to regularly check their breasts for any irregularities and to have a clinical breast examination by a GP or gynaecologist at least once a year.
Who is at risk of developing breast cancer?
Every woman is potentially at risk of getting breast cancer. However, certain factors will place them in a higher risk category, including:
- Age: The risk of developing breast cancer increases as one gets older, however one out of eight invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45.
- Family history: Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have had the disease. Having one first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child, or maternal grandmother) with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman’s risk. Having two first-degree relatives increases her risk about three-fold.
- Personal history: A woman with cancer in one breast has a three to four times increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast. This is different from a recurrence (return) of the first cancer.
- Dense breast tissue: Women with dense breast tissue (as identified on a mammogram) have more glandular tissue and less fatty tissue and thus a higher risk of breast cancer. Unfortunately, dense breast tissue can also make it harder for doctors to spot problems on mammograms, which makes regular self-examination and regular screening even more important.
- Overweight or obese women: Research in the past has shown that being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast and other cancers. More recently, a larger study suggests that overweight and obese women diagnosed with early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer have a higher risk of the cancer coming back (recurrence) and are less likely to survive the disease. Healthy eating and weight management are especially important.
- Lifestyle factors: Excessive alcohol use, little to no physical activity, smoking, and diets high in saturated fats increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Radiation to chest before 30 years of age: Radiation to the chest to treat another cancer (not breast cancer) such as Hodgkin’s disease or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, results in a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer.
- Race/ethnicity: White and Asian women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than Black and Coloured women. Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among White and Asian women and the second most common cancer among Black and Coloured women.
- Hormonal environment: Women who have not had a full-term pregnancy or have their first child after age 30 have a higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who gave birth before age 30. Breastfeeding can lower breast cancer risk, especially if a woman breastfeeds for longer than one year. Women who started menstruating younger than age 12 have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life. The same is true for women who go through menopause when they are older than 55. Current or recent past users of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Originally published at Northglen news