Breast cancer is still one of the most common types of cancer in South Africa, and mastectomy is still one of the most reliable methods for treatment.

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. There are different kinds of breast cancer. The kind of breast cancer depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer.

1 in 28 South African women will develop Breast Cancer in their lifetime. A commonly misconception is that breast cancer is unique to women. For every 100 female breast cancer patients in South Africa, there is a male breast cancer patient.


Breast Cancer Symptoms

In many cases, symptoms may go unnoticed until it becomes severe and may include:

  • A lump or mass in the breast that feels different from the surrounding tissue
  • Change is the shape, size, or appearance of the breast
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Breast rash
  • Changes in the skin over the breast, for example, dimpling
  • Breast pain
  • Inverted or pulling-in of the nipple
  • Scaling, peeling, or flaking skin over the breast, particularly the dark area around the nipple
  • Redness and/or pitting of the breast skin, resembling the skin of orange

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Diagnosis involves physical examination, blood tests, and few imaging tests to confirm the condition.

Doctors often use additional tests to find or diagnose breast cancer. They may refer women to a breast specialist or a surgeon. This does not mean that she has cancer or that she needs surgery. These doctors are experts in diagnosing breast problems.

Common diagnostic exams that your doctor might require:

  • Breast Ultrasound
  • Diagnostic Mammogram
  • Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Biopsy


If breast cancer is diagnosed, your doctors will determine breast cancer staging to determine is the cancer is only in the breast, is found in lymph nodes under your arm, or has spread outside the breast. This will allow your doctor to determine the best treatment option for you.


Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast cancer treatment will depend on the kind of breast cancer and how far it has spread.

Most treatment plans include a combination of the following:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Hormone Therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapies

Doctors from different specialties, i.e., medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, will work together to treat breast cancer.

If the cancer is detected in its early stages, some options to remove the cancer while preserving the breast tissue might be available.


Partial Mastectomy

In a partial mastectomy the surgeon will remove a large portion of the breast in order to eliminate the cancer.


Skin-Sparing and Skin-Sparing, Nipple and Areola Sparing Mastectomy

With the first procedure the breast, nipple, areola and sentinel lymph node or nodes are removed, except the breast skin. The second procedure will save in addition to the skin, the nipple and areola. Some women who intend to have breast reconstruction at a later stage will opt for this procedure.


Simple Mastectomy

This procedure, also know as total mastectomy, implies the removal of the breast, nipple, areola and sentinel lymph node or nodes.


Interesting Reads:
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer Treatment

I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. What are the next steps?

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