October 12, 2013
Boob’s The Word
Recently I wrote about early detection plans for detecting breast cancer. And early detections are definitely incredibly important, but so is a basic understanding of the risks and causes as well as signs and symptoms of the disease. So let’s take a look at these.
Risks and Causes
This is a bit tricky because we do not yet know the exact causes of this deadly disease. We do, however, know some risk factors. Some factors we can control, which we call lifestyle factors, but others are genetic and those we have little to no control over. Plus, there are some possible factors with unclear or controversial relationships to breast cancer diagnosis.
The American Cancer Society identifies several lifestyle-related risk factors:
- Having children, or more appropriately not having them
- Taking birth control
- Using hormone therapy after menopause
- Not breastfeeding
- Drinking alcohol
- Being overweight or obese
- Not engaging in physical activity
Of course, in addition to these are genetic factors like family history. redOrbit identifies these:
- age – it’s more common in women over 50
- family history – if a woman’s mother or sister had the disease before menopause, this is occasionally associated with one of two genes linked to breast cancer
- previous breast cancer
- family history of ovarian cancer
- age of menstruation – starting periods at a young age (under 12 years old)
- entering menopause later (over age 55) increases breast cancer risks
- having dense breast tissue
- radiation treatment to the chest, especially before 30 years of age
Knowing the risk factors and causes will help us be better aware and prepared to check and protect ourselves.
Signs and Symptoms
In an effort to inform people, the American Cancer Association explains the many signs and symptoms. For many, the most common symptom is the lump or mass found in or around the breast tissue. A mass is usually hard and painless while a lump is soft, tender, and rounded. Often, women describe it as feeling like a pea. Beyond the lump, other signs include:
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- A nipple discharge other than breast milk
Naturally, all the websites warn that one should not jump to conclusions, but rather should contact a doctor for further examination and diagnosis, if need be. Breast cancer is serious enough that any sign or symptom should warrant a check up.
All of this is important especially for women. As redOrbit explains, “Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Chances of developing breast cancer rise dramatically as women age. At age 25, the chances of getting the disease are less than 1 in 1,000; at age 50, the incidence has gone up to 1 in 63 women; and at age 75, it becomes 1 in 15.”
Though the disease is rare in men, they still need to know the information for themselves and their loved ones. A better-informed patient means a better path to treatment and recovery. Today and every day let’s educate ourselves and our loved ones to help spread awareness about breast cancer.
Image Credit: Syda Productions / Shutterstock