Patient Education

Breast Health Awareness


  • Breast cancer is a disease that primarily affects women.
  • Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells, which leads to a tumor. Tumors can be benign (which means they are not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A malignant tumor that develops in the breast is called “breast cancer”.
  • Malignant tumor cells continue to divide and multiply. They may invade surrounding tissue and spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to form cancerous tumors in other parts of the body (metastatic cancer).

Who gets Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer that occurs in women. Only 1 % of all breast cancer cases occur in men.

What is the risk of developing Breast Cancer?

  • As a woman ages, the risk of breast cancer increases. This is independent of any other risk factor a woman may have.
  • If a group of women live to be 90 years old, 1 in 8 of these women will develop breast cancer.
  • A woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer is 1 in 8.

Risk factors for Breast Cancer

  • Positive family history: having a mother, sister or daughter diagnosed with breast cancer (diagnosed before they reach menopause) increases your risk.

However, only around 10% of people with breast cancer have a positive family history. 90% of women with a close relative diagnosed with breast cancer do not develop breast cancer.

  • Other risk factors include: early onset (young age) of first menses, hormone replacement therapy for menopause and women who have not had children.

Can Breast Cancer be prevented?

  • Unfortunately, at this time, breast cancer cannot be prevented. However, it is curable when diagnosed early.
  • The best response to treatment occurs with smaller tumors, so early detection of breast cancer gives the best chance of successful treatment.

What can you do?

  • Be aware. Know that breast cancer can occur and do not be afraid to check for it.
  • Learn to examine your breasts. Do it every month.
  • See a doctor if you discover anything suspicious.
  • Visit a doctor for a breast examination every year, once you are 40 years old.
  • Do a mammogram (breast x-ray) regularly if you are 40 years and older or younger if you are at high risk.

Can Breast Cancer be detected early?

  • Early detection of breast cancer improves the chances of treating it successfully.
  • There are multiple investigations available that determine the health of your breasts.

  1. Mammography
    • A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to detect and diagnose breast disease, both in women who have no existing breast disease or symptoms, and in women who have breast disease (lump or nipple discharge).
    • Women who are 40 years and older, as well as high-risk younger women should have a mammogram regularly.

What to Expect When You Have a Mammogram:

  • Having a mammogram requires that you undress above the waist. A gown will be provided for you to wear, so that you are not over-exposed.
  • A female technologist will position you for the mammogram and be in attendance throughout the procedure.
  • During a mammogram, the breast is squeezed between 2 plastic plates attached to the machine in order to spread the tissue apart. This squeezing or compression which takes about 30 seconds ensures that there will be very little movement, that the image is clearer, and that the examination can be done with a lower x-ray dose. Although this compression may be uncomfortable, it is necessary to produce a clear mammogram.
  • The entire procedure for a mammogram takes about 20 minutes.

2. Breast Self-Examination (BSE)

  • The Breast Self-Examination is a way to check your own breasts for lumps, swelling or enlargement.
  • Women are able to notice changes in their breasts, by becoming aware of how their breasts normally feel.
  • BSE gets you familiar with your breast tissue. If you feel or see something you are not sure about, do not panic. Breast tissue is often very lumpy. The upper outer quadrant of most women's breasts tends to be the lumpiest. Re-check it over the next menstrual cycle and see if it persists. If it does not disappear or appears to be enlarging or worsening, see your doctor.
  • upper outer quadrant of most women's breasts tends to be the lumpiest. Re-check it over the next menstrual cycle and see if it persists. If it does not disappear or appears to be enlarging or worsening, see your doctor.
  • If you have never been trained to perform BSE, you need to be. Your doctor or nurse will be able to provide the necessary education and assist you in differentiating between normal breast tissue and a lump.

3. Clinical Breast Examination

  • This is a physical examination conducted by a doctor or nurse, looking for changes in the nipple, shape, size, color and contour of the breasts.