Frequently Asked Questions about Breast Cancer

1. What are the basic breast health steps?

Monthly  breast self examination beginning by age 20.

Clinical breast examinations (by a Doctor) at least every three years beginning at age 20 and annually after age 40.

Annual screening mammography beginning at age 40.

Women under the age 40 with a family history of Breast Cancer and/or other concerns about their personal risk should consult a trained medical professional about risk assessment and when to begin screening mammography- a service of ARYA STANA BONE & BREAST CARE.

Additional screening tools such as ultrasound and MRI may be appropriate in some high risk women.

2. What is Breast Cancer?

Breast Cancer is the most serious breast problem we encounter.

It is the leading Cancer in women in South Africa and most developed countries.

The good news is that early detection and treatment, before a lump is felt, can result in a cure.

Cancer in the breast occurs when cells in the breast become abnormal and divide without control or order. This results in a mass of tissue which when large enough can be felt as a lump in the breast.

3. What are the signs of Breast Cancer?

The most common sign of Breast Cancer is usually a painless lump in the breast, an abnormal thickening of the breast or a change in the shape, color and contour of the breast. Finding a lump in your breast does not mean you have cancer as there are many benign (non-cancer) causes of breast lumps. You should in any event see a doctor right away to have the lump further evaluated.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor right away.

  • Any new, hard lump or thickening in any part of your breast
  • Change in breast shape or size
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Swelling, redness or warmth that persists
  • Pain in one spot that does not vary with your cycle
  • Pulling in of the nipple
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly and appears only in one breast.
  • An itchy, sore or scaling area on one nipple, you may or may not have pain with these breast changes.

4. What is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and does it increase my risk for Breast Cancer?

During menopause, a woman’s body significantly reduces the production of oestrogen. This decrease in estrogen may cause hot flushes, bone loss, vaginal dryness and mood swings. To lessen these symptoms doctors may prescribe HRT. Recent use of combination hormone replacement therapy has been shown to increase breast cancer risk, with higher risk associated with longer use.

5. What are the different types of Breast Cancer?

There are several types of breast cancer, including:

  • Ductal carcinoma- the most common type that begins in the lining of the ducts.
  • Lobular carcinoma- another common type, occurring in the lobules (milk producing glands).
  • Paget’s disease – is a rare form of Beast Cancer that begins in or under the skin. It is often characterised by inflamed, red patches on the skin. Because Paget’s disease often originates from Breast Duct Cancer, the eczema-like cancer usually appears around the nipple.
  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer - a rare form of invasive Breast Cancer. Usually there is no lump and the skin of the breast looks red and feels warm. The skin of the breast looks thick and pitted, much like an orange peel.
  • Triple negative Breast Cancers- do not have oestrogen receptors or progesterone receptors and do not have an excess of HER2 protein on the cancer cell surfaces. These cancers too occur more often in younger women and tend to grow and spread more rapidly than most other types of Breast Cancer.