You are currently viewing Breast Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Breast Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women of all races. According to the 2019 National Cancer Registry (NCR), the lifetime risk in South Africa is 1 in 27. Men do get breast cancer however, it is rare and accounts for only 1% of all breast cancers. It is a hundred times more common in women than in men.

The risk for breast cancer increases as women grow older, but many women under 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer. All women are at risk, and in particular women with a family history of breast cancer. Other factors that increase risk are: being overweight, being inactive, consuming alcohol, poor dietary habits, smoking and exposure to chemicals.

Early detection can lead to effective treatment and a positive prognosis.
Regular self-breast examination and regular mammograms are key to early detection.
Presenting yourself early for treatment may result in more effective treatment, leading to a reduction in pain and suffering and a significant decrease in the loss of life.

Breast pain (mastalgia) is common and accounts for 45-70% of breast-related healthcare visits. To experience occasional breast pain is common, however, breasts don`t typically hurt. There are various causes of breast pain, also known as mastalgia – which is categorised as cyclical or non-cyclical. The 2 most common factors of breast pain are hormone fluctuation (puberty, pregnancy and menopause) and fibrocystic (lumpy) breasts. Other causes of breast pain also include breastfeeding, unhealthy diet, large breast size, a poorly fitted bra, pain from scar tissue after breast surgery, medications for heart disease antibiotics, antidepressants, hormone therapy, and an increase of epinephrine levels in the breast tissue due to smoking. Sometimes breast pain is caused by irritation of the chest, arms, or back muscles; which is common if you’ve participated in physical activities like raking, rowing, shoveling, and waterskiing. 

Breast Self-Examinations (BSE)

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) advocates that every woman should do monthly breast self-examinations (BSE) – at the same time every month 7-10 days following her menstrual cycle from age 20 – and to report any changes or concerns to a doctor or professional nurse practitioner without delay.

Regular monthly BSE should be seen as a method to raise awareness of breast cancer and taking responsibility for one’s own breast health rather than as a screening method for breast cancer.

Symptoms and Signs of Breast Cancer in Women

The following are changes that could occur due to breast cancer:

◾ A lump or thickening in an area of the breast.
◾ A change in the shape of the nipple, particularly if it turns in, sinks into the breast, or has an irregular shape.
◾ A blood-stained discharge from the nipple.
◾ A rash on a nipple or surrounding area.
◾ A swelling or lump in the armpit.
◾ Nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area.
◾ A change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast (some describe this as similar to an orange peel’s texture).
◾ Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast.
◾ Dimpling anywhere on the breast.
◾ Unexplained swelling of the breast (especially if on one side only).
◾ Unexplained shrinkage of the breast (especially if on one side only).
◾ Recent asymmetry of the breasts (Although it is common for women to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other, if the onset of asymmetry is recent, it should be checked).
◾ Nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted.
◾ Skin of the breast, areola, or nipple that becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange.

These signs do not necessarily mean cancer. As many as 90% of breast masses are not cancerous. Inverted nipples, blood stained nipple discharge or a rash can all be due to other medical conditions. In the event of any changes to what is normal, one should consult a health professional. It is most likely to be a benign condition that can easily be treated. The health professional will refer you to a breast health clinic or medical specialist where the staff can provide reassurance or provide any necessary treatment.

Image Source: CANSA

CANSA, advocates a mammogram every year for all women from age 40 for purposes of non-symptomatic breast screening. CANSA further advocates that:

1. Women who are at risk and those that have had breast health problems in the past should consult their respective health professional to determine a schedule applicable to them.
2. Every woman with a close female relative diagnosed with breast cancer, should go for a mammogram 10 years earlier than the age at which the close relative was diagnosed with breast cancer.
3. Women aged 40 to 54 should have an annual mammogram.
4. Women 55 years and older should change to having a mammogram every 2 years – or have the choice to continue with an annual mammogram.
5. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 years or longer.
6. Every woman should be informed of the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening by means of a mammogram.


*All information in this post is published for general information and educational purposes only. Arms of Mercy NPC and the website do not offer any diagnosis or treatment, and will not be held liable for any adverse health effects, losses and/or damages whatsoever. Any action you take as a result of the information is at your own risk, and does not replace the advice of a qualified medical practitioner. Always consult with your medical healthcare practitioner.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer. The Pink Month is when extra efforts are made to educate those concerned about the disease, including the early signs and symptoms associated with breast cancer.

Celebrate all the Survivors, encourage the Fighters and honour the Taken

We all know that one amazing woman. It might be your mother, sister, dear friend or even a colleague – a woman that you admire for her strength and courage, her faith and fighting spirit, or it might be someone who left her footprints in your heart after she lost her fight against breast cancer. Let`s show our Love and Support to ALL the brave ladies by wearing pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

For October we have added some new merchandise to our catalog. Every item sold means there are more proceeds that can be donated towards the medical care, treatment, therapies and emergency surgeries of all our AOM children who desperately need funds on an ongoing basis. Your support truly goes a long way!

Related Post

Share ღ