Early detection of breast cancer important

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
By: 
Gabi Khumalo

Pretoria - The Radiological Society of South Africa (RSSA) has encouraged women, especially those in the high risk category, to have a mammogram for early detection of cancer.

RSSA President Dr Clive Sperryn said early diagnosis gives the cancer patient a much higher chance of complete cure and less extensive surgery, if surgery is required.

After prevention, early detection remains the most important factor in winning the battle against breast cancer, Sperryn said.

October is Breast Health Awareness Month.

According to the Cancer Association of South Africa, one in 29 women in South Africa will be diagnosed with breast cancer, but the good news is that, if it's detected early, there is an excellent chance of recovery.

Mammography is currently the most effective way of finding breast cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages.

Sperryn encouraged women at high risk to have annual mammography and a breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan.

"Women aged 40 and over should have an annual mammogram as well as an annual clinical breast examination by a healthcare professional, over and above their own monthly breast self-examination," said Sperryn.

He said that during the month of October and first half of November, all participating members of the RSSA are offering a 10 percent discount on mammograms and breast MRI.

"Don't neglect your health, an hour or two once a year to have a mammography or breast MRI as part of an annual health check should be part of a healthy lifestyle!" said Sperryn.

Breast cancer is a malignant tumour that starts from the cells of the breast with most breast cancers forming in the cells that line the ducts.

Symptoms of breast cancer include a new lump or mass that is painless, hard and has uneven edges which are more likely to be cancer; however some cancers are tender, soft and rounded.

Other signs of breast cancer include, swelling, skin irritation, pain, nipple pain or a nipple turning inward, redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin, discharge (other than milk), or a lump in the underarm area.

Sperryn noted that there were a number of factors that contribute to the formation of breast cancer, many of which are lifestyle related, as well as age and heredity factors.

"Changes in DNA, smoking, excessive alcohol intake and diets high in saturated fat play a major role."

Women need to examine their breasts and underarms regularly every month to check for any changes such as a difference in size, lumps, unusual swellings, puckering of the skin, sores, pain or discharge.

If you have these symptoms go to a health professional without delay.