October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, more light is being shed on this devastating cancer. Picture: File

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, more light is being shed on this devastating disease.

Breast cancer is the leading cancer affecting women in South Africa. According to the National Cancer Registry, one in 27 women are at risk of being diagnosed in their lifetime.

Breast and cervical cancer have been identified as a national priority with increasing incidences occurring.

Approximately 19.4 million women aged 15 years and older are at-risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer – the cancer affecting women in South Africa the most. In 2013, deaths from breast cancer and cancers of the female genital tract, accounted for 0.7% and 1% of all deaths in South Africa respectively.

Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) says it’s important for women to be empowered with knowledge regarding lowering their cancer and health risk and recognising warning signs. 

"We encourage annual medical check-ups and cancer screening for early detection, as symptoms don’t always present until cancer has spread. Women need to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle, cutting out lifestyle factors that increase their cancer risk," said CANSA.

Research also shows that a regular Breast Self-Examination (BSE), plays an important role in discovering breast cancer, compared to finding a breast lump by chance.

A BSE should be done once a month, preferably at the same time of day, following a woman’s menstrual cycle.

If you feel or see any change in your breasts or underarms, arrange for a clinical breast examination.

WATCH: This is how you can do a  breast self examination at home.