Breast cancer facts
Rudyanto Wijaya

Breast cancer: top five facts

Breast cancer: every woman should know the basics. Why? Because the earlier cancer is found, the better the survival rate. So it’s really important to know what to look for. Read the top five facts and pledge to check your breasts monthly!


  1. What is breast cancer?

    One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. The first signs are often changes in the breasts and nipples, like lumps, hard parts, or unusual discharge.

    As with other cancers, the abnormal tissue that makes up the cancer is the result of the body’s own cells multiplying out of control. Cancers can spread to other parts of the body, causing cancer there. That’s why it’s so important to check for changes and get medical attention as soon as possible. Because then the cancer can be treated much more easily and the chances of survival are much better.

    The treatment for breast cancer often starts with surgery. This may just be to remove the tumour (a lumpectomy) or lymph nodes, though in some cases the entire breast might need to be removed (mastectomy). This is followed by heavy medication (chemotherapy), radiation therapy, and maybe hormone therapy.

    And by the way, even men can get breast cancer, so men should take changes around their chests seriously, too.

  2. Lowering your risk and checking your breasts

    It’s difficult to say what causes breast cancer. Sometimes cancer can be genetic. And there are a few things that can give you a higher risk of getting cancer. Many risk factors, like gender, race or age, can’t be changed. Others, like drinking alcohol, being inactive and obese, can be worked on. And working on them also means reducing your risk. Walking as little as 2.5 hours a week can reduce your risk by 18 per cent.

    A word about the birth control pill: yes, it is true that the pill can slightly increase the chance of breast cancer. The good news is though, that if you stop taking the pill, your risk level returns to normal.
    Once a month, you should check your breasts for lumps. Bear in mind that your breasts can feel different at different times during your menstrual cycle.

    Standing up or lying down, move around your entire breast with your fingertips in a circular pattern. Feel for lumps, squeeze the nipples and check for discharge and look for changes in colour. If you notice any changes, see a doctor as soon as possible. But don’t panic – 8 out of 10 lumps aren’t cancer. 

  3. Breast cancer and your sex life

    All major illnesses will put a dent in your sex life, but having breast cancer is bound to bring any thoughts of sex to a screeching halt. Partly to blame is the treatment: chemotherapy can cause severe fatigue and nausea, the hormonal changes can make sex uncomfortable, and hair loss, mastectomies and all kinds of other side effects leave you feeling completely unsexy. And the side effects can last for a long time, even after the treatment has ended.

    Because women often feel disconnected from their bodies, it’s really important their partners continue telling them that they are desirable and sexy. But your partner may also be afraid of hurting you, waiting for you to take the first step. So, as always, communication is the key. Tell your partner when you are ready, and what you are ready for. Share your fears and ask him about his. And don’t do anything you aren’t ready for, just because you think you should.

  4. Breast cancer and pregnancy

    It’s a myth that women who had breast cancer can’t ever get pregnant again. It’s a good idea to wait for a while after you finished treatment though. You and your body have been through a lot, and you need some time to relax and be in sync with your body again. And it’s always good to get your doctor’s opinion beforehand, to see if you are ready.

    If you are still being treated and you want to have sex, you need to use a birth control method. You should stay clear of hormonal methods though and stick to non-hormonal methods, such as condoms. Once you have completed all your treatments, it’s best to discuss your birth control options with your doctor.

  5. I survived breast cancer, now what?

    Many women who have survived breast cancer are terrified of the cancer coming back. There are a few things you can do though, to reduce your risk and go back to enjoying an every-day life.

    Firstly, take care of all your physical and emotional needs. You have been through a lot, and both your body and mind need some extra TLC now. And you should live healthily: eat a balanced diet, reduce stress (give yoga or meditation a try), drink only limited amounts of alcohol and exercise regularly. And of course, you should have regular check-ups from your doctor to ensure that you stay healthy.

    A word on guilt: some cancer survivors feel guilty for successfully battling the cancer, while others didn’t make it. That’s normal too. Try not to keep these feelings bottled up inside. Try writing them down, or talk to a loved one or a counsellor. Voicing those feelings and exploring them will help you cope with them eventually.

    Further reading beyond Love Matters:


    Have you or a loved one had an experience with breast cancer? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.

    This article was orginallly published on 21 March 2014.

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Recent Comments (12)

  1. I a lump in ma left breast bt
    I a lump in ma left breast bt diognized as fibrocystic disease n it was removed watz all this about?

    1. Hi Stellah,

      Hi Stellah,
      fibrocysts in your breasts are fairly common. More than 1 in 2 women has them, and they are the major cause for lumps in the breasts. The good thing is: most of them of completely harmless. Some can cause discomfort and then should be removed. So you shouldn’t worry about it too much. You can also ask your doctor for more information.

  2. i ave slight lump on my
    i ave slight lump on my breast and its a little bit painful could it be breast cancer?? am stressed

    1. Hi Florence,

      Hi Florence,
      most likely, it is nothing to be concerned about, but to be sure, please see a doctor about this. Good luck!

  3. My Mom passed away of breast
    My Mom passed away of breast cancer.I’m seeing changes in my breast as well but it doesn’t feel like a lump.Its like itchy n the skin is peeling off just beneath the nipples.Any idea??

    1. Annemarie,

      it would be best to have your breasts regularly checked by a doctor, especially when you notice changes. All the best, dear!

  4. I am a man how are the signs
    I am a man how are the signs of breast cancer appear in men alone

    1. Toni,

      similar to women, if you notice changes around your chest or nipples, please see a doctor.

  5. Dr. i had some pain on ma
    Dr. i had some pain on ma left breast bt whn i visited a doctor in Mulago, i was adviced 2 go 4 check up whc i did en e doctor said i had a lump under ma ampit he gave me drugs whc i took bt still feel pain around ma breast

    1. If it’s still painful, please
      If it’s still painful, please go back to the doctor to have it checked out.

  6. Av a young child and
    Av a young child and sometimes when the breast milk is flowing Ama imejazana mpaka inamwagika I feel a lot of pain after the baby breast feeds. And this may go for some days. Please help.

    1. Mirriam,

      plus talk to your doctor about this as soon as possible, so that you can be helped with your pain.

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