Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed among American women. According to BreastCancer.org, about 12 percent developing breast cancer at some point in her lifetime.
With these statistics, it is only natural for women to have questions about breast cancer and what they can do to prevent it. Below are some of the most common questions and the answers:
What Are the Most Significant Risk Factors for Developing Breast Cancer?
Though all women are at risk, certain factors may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Some of the most common risk influences include:
- Age: Most cases are found in women who are aged 50 or over. The risk continues to increase as women surpass the age milestones of 60, 70 and 80.
- Family history: Although most cases of breast cancer are not linked to family history, women whose mothers, siblings or children have had breast cancer have an increased risk of getting it themselves.
- Genetics: Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are responsible for suppressing tumors and repairing damaged DNA, are known to increase the risk of developing breast cancer significantly; however, only about 10 percent of breast cancer cases are associated with these mutations.
Can I Get Breast Cancer If It Doesn't Run in My Family?
Although a family history of breast cancer does increase risk, more than 80 percent of women in the United States who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any known family history of it.
What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
When breast cancer begins to develop, women may not notice any physical symptoms. However, as cancer continues to progress, it can cause changes in and around the breasts, which can include:
- A lump or node in/on the breast, near the breast or under the arm
- Change in the shape or size of the breast
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk
- General pain of the breast
- Dimpling of the skin (skin resembling an orange peel)
- Inverted nipples
- Changes such as redness, swelling or changes in color of the breast, nipple or the areola.
Although the above symptoms still can be a result of benign conditions, it is important for women to watch for these changes and consult a doctor when these changes arise. A number of diagnostic tests can be done to determine the cause of these symptoms.
The best test for prevention is a routine X-ray of the breast known as a mammogram. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that a mammogram is the most accurate way to spot breast cancer early on, and can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. Women, aged 40, should talk to their doctor about their breast cancer risks and the option to begin annual mammograms.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of Getting Breast Cancer?
While some factors such as age and family history cannot be changed, the risk for developing breast cancer can be reduced in the following ways:
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Investigate the option of breastfeeding
- Talk to your doctor about the risks of any hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives, if you're taking them.
At Southwest General Medical Group, Inc., our primary and specialty care physicians are committed to working closely so that you can fully understand your risks of developing breast cancer. To learn more about our services or schedule an appointment, visit our website.