Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissue of the breast. These cancer cells – which are basically damaged or mutated cells that grow uncontrollably – can either remain in the breast (benign cancer) and not spread, or they can invade surrounding tissue and spread to other organs (malignant cancer). While approximately 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with breast cancer yearly, the good news is that death rates from breast cancer have been steadily declining since the 90s. This is due in part to better screening and early detection, increased awareness and better management options.
In order to help you gain a better understanding of this condition, here are five need-to-know facts about breast cancer:
1. It is the most common cancer among women worldwide
1 in 8 women face the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. The good news is the advancements in science and medicine have greatly improved our understanding of this condition, as well as the treatment options for it. Due to the fact that doctors now find more cancers early and use newer, better treatments, survival rates are getting better all the time.
2. Early detection saves lives
The earlier breast cancer is detected and treated, the better the chance of successful treatment. While an actual diagnosis of breast cancer requires specific hospital tests, it is important to be aware of the key physical symptoms such as:
– A painless lump in your breast which was not there before
– Abnormal changes in breast size or shape
– Swelling in the armpit
– Nipple changes or discharge
3. You should get regular check-ups and mammograms for breast cancer
It is generally considered good practice to start carrying out breast self examinations starting in your twenties, as it is a good way for women to familiarize themselves with how their breasts normally look and feel. That may make it easier to feel and notice any changes or abnormalities right away. The most important screening method, however, is a mammogram, and the American Cancer Society recommends that women aged 40 or older should have a screening mammogram yearly. Regular breast cancer screening mammograms are associated with significantly reduced deaths from the disease.
4. A healthy and active lifestyle could reduce your risk of breast cancer
Eating a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables may decrease your risk of breast cancer, as well as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In addition to a healthy diet, limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking may also reduce your breast cancer risk. Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of breast cancer so as well as being careful about your diet, it is also important to stay physically active, especially after menopause.
5. It is important to know your risk factors
Did you know that you face a higher risk of breast cancer if a family member has been previously diagnosed for breast cancer? In addition to knowing the symptoms, it is also important to know the risk factors associated with breast cancer. This includes genetic factors such as family history and your genetic makeup, and environmental factors such as the aforementioned poor diet and alcohol consumption. Here’s more information about the risk factors:
Risk Factors of Breast Cancer
Environmental & Lifestyle factors
Simply being a woman is a risk factor for developing breast cancer. Men can also get breast cancer but the disease is a 100 times more common among women than men.
|Lack of physical activity
A sedentary lifestyle with little or no physical activity can increase your risk of breast cancer.
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age, and most invasive breast cancers are found in women 55 years or older.
A diet high in saturated fat, and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.
Breast cancer is diagnosed more often in Caucasian women than in other races.
|Being overweight or obese
Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for breast cancer, especially if you have gone through menopause
Having a mother, sister, father or child who has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer can increase one’s risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Frequent and excessive consumption of alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer, in addition to being harmful to your health
About 5-10 percent of breast cancers result from gene mutations which are inherited from a parent. The most common cause of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
|Radiation to the chest
Previous radiation therapy to the chest (for other conditions such as Hodgkin’s disease) can increase your risk of breast cancer
|Menstrual and reproductive history
Early menstruation (before 12), late menopause (after 55), late pregnancy and never being pregnant have been linked to an increase risk of breast cancer.
|Hormone replacement therapy
Taking hormone replacement therapy can increase your risk for breast cancer
The important thing to remember about breast cancer is that it isn’t just about knowing the facts; it’s also about sharing these facts with the people around you, and spreading awareness about a condition which continues to affect many women worldwide. Consult your doctor or specialist if you have any questions or concerns about breast cancer, and reach out to those whom you know are going through it. With approximately $600 million being invested yearly in breast cancer research in the US alone, coupled with the many therapeutic milestones that have already been reached, there certainly is plenty of reason for everyone, not just breast cancer patients, to be hopeful.
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.