Joan, thank you for asking a question from Health24.
am sorry to hear about the burning sensation which you are experiencing in your
right breast with a feeling of heaviness and pain going down into your arm. Any
burning, pain or other sensation in the breast is not normal and should be
investigated so that an early diagnosis can be made. Unfortunately you provide
no information as to your age or breast health history. You also did not make
mention of the racial group you belong to.
are aware that in the developed world the starting age for regular breast
screening by means of a mammogram has been raised to 45 years. This applies to
First World countries where access to health care is freely available to
South African situation is, however, somewhat different:
majority of South African women do not enjoy access to health care
2012 a total of 1 409+ women between the ages 20 and 44 were diagnosed
with breast cancer.
Early diagnosis - early
diagnosis remains an important early detection strategy, particularly in low-
and middle-income countries where the diseases is diagnosed in late stages and
resources are very limited. There is some evidence that this strategy can
produce "down staging" (increasing in proportion of breast cancers
detected at an early stage) of the disease to stages that are more amenable to
Mammography screening - mammography
screening is the only screening method that has proven to be effective.
Although there is evidence that organised population-based mammography
screening programmes can reduce breast cancer mortality by around 20% in the
screened group versus the unscreened group across all age groups, in general
there appears to be a narrow balance of benefits compared with harms,
particularly in younger and older women. There is uncertainty about the
magnitude of the harms – particularly overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
Mammography screening is very complex and resource intensive and no research of
its effectiveness has been conducted in low resource settings.
(BSE) - there is no evidence on the effect of screening
through breast self-examination (BSE). However, the practice of BSE has been
seen to empower women, taking responsibility for their own health. Therefore,
BSE is recommended for raising awareness among women at risk rather than as a
Examination (CBE) - research is underway to evaluate CBE as a low-cost
approach to breast cancer screening that can work in less affluent countries.
Promising preliminary results show that the age-standardised incidence rate for
advanced-stage breast cancer is lower in the screened group compared to the
normally suggest that one should have a
mammogram every year for all women from age 40 for purposes of non-symptomatic
It is further advocated that:
Women who are at risk and those that have had
breast health problems in the past should consult their respective health
professional to determine a schedule applicable to them
Women aged 40 to 54 should have an annual mammogram
Women 55 years and older should change to having a
mammogram every 2 years – or have the choice to continue with an annual
Screening should continue as long as a woman is in
good health and is expected to live 10 years or longer
Every woman should be informed of the known
benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening by
means of a mammogram
If you are 40 years or older, you should have a
mammogram every year
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal
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