What is breast cancer?

Breast Cancer Awareness: Why self-examinations and mammograms are important

Breast cancer is a significant issue of concern as it’s the most common cancer among women, according to WHO. This sucks!

All over the world, particularly in Africa, many people are oblivious to the existence of breast cancer, and as such, awareness campaigns are intensified by organisations and survivors annually in the month of October, and pink is the symbolic colour. Globally, about 1.1 million new cases of breast cancer annually, and in Ghana, about 4,645 new cases each year (Breast Care International,2022). 

If you’re interested in knowing the history of breast cancer awareness month, click here.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Before we know what it actually is, let’s get a few things straight.


What is cancer?

What is Cancer?

Cancer is simply the radical growth of body cells, which could spread to other parts of the body and cause harm. There are many types of cancers that could affect different parts of the body, depending on the rate of spread. They could either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (invasive). 

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What is a tumour?

A tumour is an abnormal growth of cells in the body. Wondering about the difference between a tumour and cancer? Usually, tumours that are likely to cause damage in the body, or are aggressive in nature are called cancers.


What is breast cancer?

What is breast cancer?

Now that we’ve established a few definitions, I’m sure you know what breast cancer is. Your guess is as good as mine! Breast cancer is malignant tumours or masses of cells in the breast tissues. Breast tissues are not just the round-like cups on the chest, they include under the armpit area, and under the collarbone. Breast cancer cells usually exist as lumps in the breast.


Why is breast self-examination important?

Early detection of breast cancer cells saves lives.

There are a number of ways to detect lumps in the breast. Note that not all lumps or rough surfaces in the breast tissues are cancerous. This is why it is crucial to know the normal nature and size of your breasts, especially in different seasons, like when you’re menstruating, a nursing mother or when you’re pregnant. This makes it easy to detect abnormal changes in the breasts.


The Self-examination procedure for breast cancer is a method which can be done, without the assistance of a doctor, and at no cost. The only tools you need are your senses and your hands. The procedure is explained below:


Breast self-examination steps

National Cancer Institute

  1. One arm is lifted high up, and the other palm is pressed gently over the breast in an overlapping manner, so as not to miss any moving lumps. This is done from the armpit area, under the collar bone, and then to the breast cups beneath.


2. The same procedure is repeated for each breast where the right hand examines the left breast tissues, while the left hand is lifted high. 


3. It is advisable to perform this examination while looking in the mirror (visual inspection), to get a proper view of the sizes of the two breasts, and how they look in general.


4. This can be done in a clockwise or vertical pattern, while standing, or lying down.


5. Self-examination should be done regularly, say monthly.


Does a breast self-examination test replace a mammogram? 

While breast self-examination is not in itself a sure-proof procedure for the detection of breast cancer cells, it is more helpful when combined with screening and displayed on a mammogram. A mammogram is an x-ray film of the breast tissues. It is a procedure to detect early signs of breast cancer, and done at a health facility by a medical doctor. Mammograms are like a second layer of surety to know if a person has a malignant or benign type of breast tissue.

National Cancer Institute

NB: Mammograms can be done annually for women 40 years and above.


Breast cancer symptoms 

Do not panic if you discover or suspect lumps in one or both breasts during the self-examination procedure. To be certain, visit the nearest hospital and have a mammogram taken. 

In the early stages, it is difficult to detect just by looking at the breasts, because the lumps may not be painful at all, until the later stages.


Some of the symptoms include

  • Lump (s) in the breast tissue
  • Inverted nipples, instead of pointing out
  • Breast pains
  • Unusual swelling of one or both breasts
  • Discharge from the nipples
  • Notice an “orange-like peel” rough breast surface


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Breast cancer treatment

If you should detect an abnormality in the size and nature of one breast or both during a self-breast examination or breast screening, and it has been confirmed by a mammogram to be cancerous, begin treatment immediately.

Treatment can involve surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. 


For further explanation on breast cancer and related issues, contact Nurse Nana Kye:


CHILLAX: Labyrinth of Love

Breast cancer can be deadly. This is why self-breast examination and breast screening is crucial. Remember, early detection saves lives.  Let’s spread love and support victims, and their families in the fight against breast cancer. Join the breast cancer awareness campaign train, and save lives.


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Written by:

A believer, freelance writer, and kingdom blogger. I believe in bringing out the best in who God has made you be.


  • Mackiva

    A very insightful piece on breast cancer.

    October 20, 2022

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