Know your lemons

October is Breast Cancer awareness month. The Community does a self-check on breast cancer to help us detect the disease in its early stages
The Community By The Community report
Published on October 11, 2014
breast cancer

Like other cancer, breast cancer is caused by abnormal cells that grow and invade healthy cells in our body. It starts in the cells of the breast and can invade surrounding tissues or spread to other areas of the body. According to World Health Organisation, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide. Male breast cancer is rare, with less than one per cent of all breast cancer cases diagnosed in men.

Signs and symptoms

Early detection of breast cancer increases the number of treatment options available and often reduces the risk of dying from the disease. According to Cancer Research UK, the first symptom of breast cancer for many women is a lump in the breast. Most lumps, nine out of 10, are benign which means they are not cancerous.

A dozen signs of breast cancer to look out for:

If you notice anything unusual about your breast go and see your doctor straight away. Don’t panic as it is most likely to be a benign condition that can be easily treated.

Causes of breast cancer

It’s natural to want to know the exact cause of breast cancer, but no one knows and for most patients, they will never find out. What we do know is that it is always caused by damage to a cell’s DNA. Why and how that DNA becomes damaged is still unknown. It could be affected by a number of genetic and lifestyle factors, known as risk factors. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean you will get breast cancer. In fact, many women who have breast cancer have none of these risk factors.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation outlines the factors that can increase your risk of breast cancer:

Genetic factors  

  • Gender: Breast cancer occurs more often in women than men
  • Age: Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older
  • Race: Caucasian women are diagnosed more often than women from other races
  • Family history and genetic factors: Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have the disease
  • Personal health history: If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have a higher chance of being diagnosed in the other breast. Your risk also increases if abnormal breast cells have been detected before
  • Reproductive history: Women who have had no children or who had their first child after the age of 30 have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer
  • Certain genome changes: Mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase your risk of breast cancer. This can be determined through a genetic test, which you may consider taking if you have a family history of breast cancer
  • Dense breast tissue: Having dense breast tissue can increase your risk and make lumps harder to detect

Lifestyle factors

  • Lack of physical activity: Physical activity in the form of exercise reduces breast cancer risk
  • Frequent consumption of alcohol: Frequent consumption of alcohol is linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer
  • Being overweight or obese: Being overweight or obese after menopause increases breast cancer risk
  • Radiation to the chest: Having radiation therapy to the chest area as treatment for another cancer at a young age increases breast cancer risk
  • Taking combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Using combined hormone therapy after menopause increases the risk of getting breast cancer

For more information visit and

  • Create your very own early detection plan
  • Host a fundraiser to help provide mammograms for women in need
  • Get access to a guide to help understand breast cancer

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