11 Ways to tell if you are at risk of breast cancer

Breast cancer

Breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass.

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). It may also begin in the glandular tissue called lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) or in other cells or tissue within the breast.

Signs and symptoms

  • A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
  • Change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
  • Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
  • A newly inverted nipple
  • Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin
  • Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange

Risk factors

A breast cancer risk factor is anything that makes it more likely you’ll get it.

1. Lack of physical activity

A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk for breast cancer.

2. Poor diet

breast cancer

A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.

Meats cooked at high temperatures form chemicals that may cause changes in your DNA, which may lead to cancer.

3. Being overweight or obese

breast cancer

Being overweight or obese can increase your chances of getting it. Your risk is increased if you have already gone through menopause.

4. Drinking alcohol

breast cancer

Frequent consumption of alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk.

5. Radiation to the chest

breast cancer

Certain medical procedures, such as chest x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, and radiation therapy can also cause cell damage that leads to cancer.

6. Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

breast cancer

Taking combined hormone replacement therapy, as prescribed for menopause that combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause, can increase your risk for breast cancer.

This also increases the risk that the cancer will be detected at a more advanced stage.

7. Gender

breast cancer

Women are much more likely than men are to develop breast cancer. Although rare, men can also get breast cancer, the symptoms are the similar to those in women.

8. Age

breast cancer

Age is the biggest single risk factor for cancer. Therefore, your risk  increases as you grow older.  Cells in our bodies replicate themselves and their DNA to keep the body healthy.

But this replication isn’t perfect. Errors, known as mutations, occur and build up over time.The older you are, the more your cells will have replicated and the more DNA errors are likely to occur.

If too many build up, the cell becomes faulty, and can lead to a normal cell becoming cancerous if it grows uncontrollably.

9. Family history and genetic factors

breast cancer

If your parent, sibling or child has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the future.

Your risk increases if your relative was diagnosed before the age of 50.

10. Personal health history

breast cancer

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the other breast in the future.

In addition, your risk increases if abnormal breast cells have been detected before.

11. Menstrual and reproductive history

breast cancer

Early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55) or having your first child at an older age.

Women who have never been pregnant have a greater risk of getting the disease than do women who have had one or more pregnancies.


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