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Ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer while you’re young

Breast cancer is a global concern as it is a major cause of mortality for women and girls.

According to the 2017 National Cancer Registry (NCR), it is a lifetime risk of one in 25 women in South Africa.

The disease is not age-related and a variety of factors contribute to it such as being inactive and overweight, smoking and drinking, or having a family history of breast cancer. All women are at risk.

While the risk of breast cancer increases with age, many women under the age of 40 are diagnosed with the disease, according to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA).

A couple of years ago, American actress Christina Applegate disclosed she had breast cancer at the age of 36 in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, and she added that few people realised that even women in their 20s were at risk.

The Fox star said: “This is my opportunity now to go out and fight as hard as I can for early detection.”

Experts have revealed that a knowledge of the symptoms as well as screening for breast cancer can lead to an earlier diagnosis and better treatment outcomes.

CANSA shared a list of things you can do:

Self-breast examinations

Things to look out for are changes in breasts or the underarm area, such as lumps, texture changes, thickening, dimpling, tenderness, discharge, rash, or swelling. Not all lumps indicate cancer but should be investigated. If you notice any change, see a health practitioner.

Clinical breast examinations (CBE)

A CBE is a visual and manual examination of the entire breast, from the collarbone to the bra line, and from the armpit to the breast bone. CANSA advises women and girls to have a CBE as part of their annual medical check-ups.


This is an X-ray done to detect lumps in the breast. It does not prevent cancer but it can save lives through early detection. Women from 40 years and over should do it annually and women over 55 years every two years.


This is a genomic test that analyses the activity of certain genes in early-stage breast cancer. The Mamma print can be used to help make treatment decisions based on cancer coming back after 10 years of diagnosis.


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