Symptoms & Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

Within we will cover the symptoms & risk factors of breast cancer. Clearly, we need to know what to look for and what makes someone at risk for this disease.

• New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).

• Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.

• Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

• Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.

• Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

• Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.

• Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.

• Pain in any area of the breast.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Getting Older

The risk for breast cancer increases with age; most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50. It is most important to know the symptoms & risk factors.

Genetic Mutations

Inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited these genetic changes are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Reproductive History

Early menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.

Having Dense Breasts

Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram. Women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.

Women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES)

DES was given to some pregnant women in the United States between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, have a higher risk. Women whose mothers took DES while pregnant with them are also at risk.

 

Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases

Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time. Some non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ are associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

Family history of breast or ovarian cancer

A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast or ovarian cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.

Previous treatment using radiation therapy

Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (like for treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.

 

Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

You can help lower your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health in the following ways:

• Keep a healthy weight.
• Exercise regularly.
• Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks.
• If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.
• Breastfeed your children, if possible.
• If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your risk.

Self-Exams

Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Being familiar with how your breasts look and feel can help you notice symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size that may be of concern.

Clinical Breast Exam

A clinical breast exam is performed by a healthcare professional that is trained to recognize many different types of abnormalities and warning signs. This in-office exam will most likely be completed by your family physician or gynecologist at your annual exam, whereas your breast self-exam is something every woman should do at once at month at home.

Mammogram

A mammogram is an x-ray that allows a qualified specialist to examine the breast tissue for any suspicious areas. The breast is exposed to a small dose of ionizing radiation that produces an image of the breast tissue.   Women 40 and older should have mammograms every 1 or 2 years. Women who are younger than 40 and have risk factors for breast cancer should ask their healthcare professional whether mammograms are advisable and how often to have them. Even women who have no symptoms and no known risks for breast cancer should have regularly scheduled mammograms to help detect potential breast cancer at the earliest possible time.

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