Breast Cancer, What You Need to Know

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Breast Cancer is a group of diseases that cause cells in the breasts to change and grow out of control. These cancer cells eventually form a lump or mass called a tumor; it is the most common cancer in women.

Early detection is key and can save your life! Experts advice that breast self-exams should be performed every month. Having regular Mammogram screening, an x-ray of the breast, can also lower the risk of dying from breast cancer, as it will be detected early and treated. Women between the ages of 40-74 years old should have mammogram screening every 2 years.

3 Easy Steps to Performing Breast Self-Examination

  1.  Get undressed, stand in front of a mirror and give your breasts a good scrutiny. Put both your arms at your sides, inspect your breasts; put your arms above your head and inspect again. While doing this, look out for changes in the look and or shape of your breasts, including skin changes such as, swelling, dimpling of the skin, changes or discharge in the nipples. Finally, push your palms against hips and push out your chest muscles.  Look for any of the changes mentioned above.
  2.  Take a shower: Wet, soapy hands make it easier to slide your fingers over your skin and feel what's beneath the surface. Use the pads of your fingers (we suggest the 3 middle fingers) to move around your entire breast in a circular pattern, moving from the outside to the center. Check the entire breast and armpit area for any lumps, thickening, or knots. Carefully observe any changes in your breast.
  3. Lay back on a bed or couch. Throw a pillow under your left shoulder and put that arm behind your head, using your right hand, move the pads of your fingers around your breast gently in small circular motions, moving in an up-and-down pattern across your whole breast. Use a combination of light and firm pressure.  You are looking for lumps, thickening, or knots.  Do not forget to squeeze your nipples as you are looking for any unusual discharge or lumps.NOTE: One important thing is to master your breasts terrain. If your hands are regularly on your breasts, you will undoubtedly know if something feels different than it should.

Have you done your breast self-exam this month yet?

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that affects a person's chance of contracting a disease. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that a person will get the disease. Most women who are exposed to these risk factors never develop the disease.

Gender: Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer.

Genetic Risk Factors: About 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, resulting directly from gene defects inherited from a parent.

Age: The older a woman gets, the higher her chances of developing breast cancer. Over 80% of all female breast cancers occur among women aged 50+ years.

Race: White women are more likely to get infected than women of other races.

Family History of Breast Cancer: risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease.

Personal History of Breast Cancer: A woman with cancer in one breast has an increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast.

Dense Breast Tissue:  Having dense breast tissue can increase your risk for breast cancer and make lumps harder to detect. A mammogram can detect if a woman has dense breast tissues or not. Check with your physician to know if you have dense breasts.

Tobacco smoke: Long-term heavy smoking increases a person's risk of getting breast cancer.

Drinking alcohol: Alcohol is linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The more the alcohol consumption, the higher the risk.

Breastfeeding: Studies suggest that breastfeeding for a year or more reduces a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Preventive Measures against Breast Cancer

There are a number simple of things women can do to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer, such as getting regular physical activity, placing a limit on alcohol intake, avoid smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. Other preventive measures include:

Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy.  If you're taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options.

Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation, which have been linked with breast cancer risk. Reduce your exposure by having such tests only when absolutely necessary. Some research suggests a link between breast cancer and exposure to the chemicals found in some workplaces, gasoline fumes and vehicle exhaust.

Breast Cancer and Breast feeding.

Most doctors recommend that a lactating mother or a woman who just gave birth and is about to be treated for breast cancer should stop (or not start) breastfeeding. Many chemo, hormone, and targeted therapy drugs can get into breast milk and be passed on to the baby.

Some Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer.

A lump or thickening in/near the breast or in the underarm that persists.

A change in the size, shape, feel or contour of the breast.

A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple.

Some Myths about Cancer

Breast cancer is not contagious; you can’t contract cancer from a person who has the disease. Underwire bras, Breast Implants, Mammograms, Plastic food serving items, Deodorant, Antiperspirants, Microwaves, Cell phones all do not cause breast cancer.


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  1. Okelola Biola says:

    Please when breastfeeding n sudenly one of the breast milk change taste salty n doesnt pump out milk like the other again,what could b d cause of such? Thanks

  2. Nelly says:

    Well explained. Thanks for the enlightenment

  3. Franca maxwell says:

    Thank u cussons for this comprehensive lecture on Brest cancer. I have learnt alot

  4. lee says:

    Thanks for the enlightenment, l have increase in knowledge.