Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe
3 minute read
26 Sep 2016
9:31 am

Dr Dulcy on understanding breast cancer

Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe

With breast cancer awareness month kick-starting this week, Dr Dulcy will be focusing on this dreaded disease over the next few weeks. Here she talks about detection.

Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Simply put, breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. It is a cancer that starts in the tissues of the breast.

There are 2 main types of breast cancer: Ductal carcinoma starts in the tubes (ducts) that carry milk from the breast to the nipple. Most breast cancers are of this type.

Lobular carcinoma starts in the parts of the breast called lobules, which produce milk. In rare cases, breast cancer can start in other areas of the breast. The incidence of breast cancer among women is increasing and it is one of the most common cancers among women in South Africa.

It is the most prevalent cancer amongst white and Asian women and the second most common cancer among black and coloured women. Early detection of the condition can lead to effective treatment and a positive prognosis.

About 90% of patients survive for many years after diagnosis when breast cancer is detected at the early stages. Regular breast self-examination and regular mammograms are important for early detection.

Presenting yourself early for treatment may result in more effective treatment, leading to a reduction in pain and suffering and a significant decrease in the loss of life.

Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it’s far more common in women. Substantial support for breast cancer awareness and research funding has helped improve the screening and diagnosis and advances in the treatment of breast cancer.

Breast cancer survival rates have increased, and the number of deaths has been steadily declining, which is largely due to a number of factors such as earlier detection, a new personalized approach to treatment and a better understanding of the disease.

If you find a lump or other change in your breast — even if a recent mammogram was normal — make an appointment with your doctor for prompt evaluation.


It’s not clear what causes breast cancer. According to scientists breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin growing abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass.

The cells may spread (metastasize) through your breast to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body. Breast cancer most often begins with cells in the milk-producing ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma). Breast cancer may also begin in the glandular tissue called lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) or in other cells or tissue within the breast. Researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that may increase your risk of breast cancer.

But it’s not clear why some people who have no risk factors develop cancer, yet other people with risk factors never do. It’s likely that breast cancer is caused by a complex interaction of your genetic makeup and your environment. It is commonly inherited. It is estimated that about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or other cancers, your doctor may recommend a blood test to help identify specific gene mutations that are being passed

Risk factors

A breast cancer risk factor is anything that makes it more likely you’ll get breast cancer. But having one or even several breast cancer risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop breast cancer.

Many women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors other than simply being women. The following factors have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and they include:

Being female:

Women are much more likely than men are to develop breast cancer. Yes, men can get breast cancer.

Increasing age:

Your risk of breast cancer increases as you age.

A personal history of breast cancer:

If you’ve had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.

A family history of breast cancer:

If your mother, sister or daughter was diagnosed with

Read More of Dr Dulcy’s breakdown of breast cancer on today’s The Citizen. 

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