Empower yourself with knowledge this Breast Cancer Month

Early detection of breast cancer is key to enabling effective treatment and taking proactive steps to stand a better chance of recovering from the disease.

Breast cancer remains the most diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide.

In South Africa, it is also the most common cancer among women, accounting for 22.6% of all female cancers and 16% of cancer deaths in women.

While it can be a frightening diagnosis, it is important to remember that early detection is key to enabling effective treatment and having a better chance of recovering from the disease.

According to Dr Sarita Retief, a radiation oncologist and Icon Oncology network provider, women should empower themselves and take proactive steps to reduce their risk.

“We know that self-examination and regular clinical screening help to catch the disease early when it is easier to treat. Understanding the screening options that you have available, especially if you have a family history of cancer, is important.”

Screening tools include:

Clinical breast examinations

Your primary healthcare provider, GP, gynaecologist and government health clinics all offer clinical breast examinations. CANSA Care Centres also offer affordable clinical breast examinations, where you will be seen by a CANSA nurse.


If you are 40, it is time to start having mammograms. These scans can detect irregularities in the breast tissue. Women can be screened at public hospital breast clinics if they have a referral letter from a medical professional or CANSA nurse.

Breast self-examination

Nobody knows your body better than yourself. Check your breasts regularly, and if you feel or see anything that concerns you, speak to your doctor.

Signs to be aware of include a new lump in the breast or armpit. thickening or swelling of part of the breast, irritation or dimpling of breast skin and redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.  The importance of prevention and early detection of breast cancer cannot be overstated.

“It’s not just about the medical aspects, it’s about preserving lives, ensuring a better quality of life, and reducing the physical, emotional and financial toll of this disease. We must continue to raise awareness, promote regular screenings and adopt healthy lifestyles to combat breast cancer effectively. By doing so, we can move closer to a future in which breast cancer is a less common and less deadly disease,” says Retief.

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