Breast cancer is the most common cause of death in women worldwide. The incidence of breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa has been rising and yet many cases remain undetected.
A number of risk factors such as alcoholism, age and hormones predispose women to breast cancer and several challenges are currently faced in detecting and managing breast cancer in the region, especially in the domain of medical imaging technology and finances.
The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of successful treatment. So it’s important to check your breasts regularly. How can you detect breast cancer from the symptoms?
The first symptom of breast cancer for many women is a lump in their breast. But 9 out of 10 breast lumps (90%) are benign. That means they are not cancers. However, if you spot a lump, see your doctor straight away.
Change in size, shape or feel of a breast
Your breast might look bigger or have a different shape than usual. It might feel different. Many healthy women find that their breasts feel lumpy and tender before their period. Get to know the size, shape and feel of your breasts. See your doctor if you notice any changes or anything that is unusual for you.
Breast pain is very common and it’s not normally due to cancer. You might get pain in one or both breasts for a while, which goes after a time. There might be no obvious reason for this pain, even if you have a lot of tests. See your doctor if you have breast pain.
Skin changes include wrinkling, dimpling, a rash, or redness of the skin of the breast.
Change in the position of your nipple
One nipple might turn in or sink into the breast. It might look or feel different to usual.
Fluid leaking from your nipple
Fluid leaking from a nipple in a woman who isn’t pregnant or breast feeding can be a sign of cancer. But it can also be caused by other medical conditions.
See your doctor if you have leakage from a nipple and you aren’t pregnant or breast feeding.
As take home message, you should see your doctor if you have:
- a change in the size, shape or feel of a breast
- a new lump or thickening in a breast or armpit
- skin changes such as wrinkling, dimpling, a rash or redness of the skin
- fluid leaking from a nipple and you aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding
- changes in the position of a nipple
- breast pain