One in 31 South African women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, making it the most common type of cancer across the country. Early detection can, however, stop cancer from spreading which is why it is important to be informed on the symptoms and to maintain regular screenings.

Types of breast cancer

When tumours form in the breast, they usually start within cells in the milk ducts or in the milk-producing lobule glands.

> Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
This type of cancer starts within a milk duct and has not started to spread into the breast tissue yet and is usually considered to be non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer.

> Invasive breast cancer (ILC or IDC)
This breast cancer has already started to spread to the surrounding breast tissue. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) accounts for about 70-80% of all breast cancers.

Types of breast cancer

Do regular self-checks for any of the following symptoms:

Any new lump or mass in your breast

Breast or nipple pain

Swelling of any part of your breast

Red, thick, dry skin, or sores on your breast

Nipple discharge

Swollen lymph nodes under your arm or around your collarbone area

Sunken nipple

Can breast cancer cause pain?

Not all breast cancers have painful symptoms, which is why regular screenings are vital for early detection.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor can make a diagnosis in various ways, depending on the type of cancer suspected. Imaging tests such as diagnostic mammography, an ultrasound or an MRI could be conducted to get a clearer picture after screening, if a mammography may have shown a suspicious growth. Your doctor could also request that a biopsy be done to remove a small amount of tissue to make a diagnosis. The biopsy sample will provide your doctor with information such as determining the tumour features and the grade of the tumour to establish the best treatment plan to follow.

Is breast cancer hereditary?

You can inherit certain genes that might increase your risk factors. About 5% to 10% of breast cancers are thought to be a result of gene mutations being passed on from a parent.

Can breast cancer be prevented?

There is no way to prevent breast cancer but there are a number of things you can do to decrease your risk, such as being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking.

If you would like to discuss female cancer cover under our Femme Cover policy, contact Total Risk Administrators today- www.totalrisksa.co.za

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