BREAST CANCER: Causes, Risk Factors, and Symptoms
It’s pink October and it’s all about the boobs. In this age, we know what that means – don’t open your social media page in public. With all the excitement of flaunting and/or ogling at boobs of all shapes and glory aside, the most important part of pink October is raising awareness on breast cancer. So today on the TropicalMD, yes! You guessed it, we are talking about breast cancer.
Kindly take a few minutes to educate yourself on breast cancer, bookmark this page, and share with family and friends because early detection saves lives.
About Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide – in both developed and developing nations. In contrast, however, whereas about 62% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage in a developed country like the USA, in developing countries like Ghana, over 60% of women with breast cancer report late or delay treatment, resulting in a great number of preventable deaths.
Yes! Death from breast cancer is very preventable. Almost all cases of early breast cancer can be cured with the right treatment at the hospital.
What is cancer?
The human body is made of building blocks known as cells. Sometimes, certain defects in these cells cause them to grow abnormally. Cancer is the general term used to describe these abnormally growing cells that have the potential to spread and invade healthy cells in the body
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells are formed in the tissues of the breast. The female breast consists of tissues such as the lobules which make milk, ducts which transport milk to the nipple, fat which gives the breast its shape and fibrous connective tissue which holds the other tissues in place. Breast cancer results when abnormally growing cancer cells develop in any of these breast tissues.
What causes breast cancer?
As mentioned earlier, breast cancer develops when cells in the breast begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass.
The exact trigger that results in the cells behaving abnormally is not clear. This notwithstanding, some hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors are thought to increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer. These are known as risk factors.
Risk factors for developing breast cancer
- Gender: Women are much more likely than men are to develop breast cancer. Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.
- Increasing age: risk of breast cancer increases with increasing age. Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
- Personal history of breast cancer or other breast conditions: If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast. Also if abnormal breast cells such as lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast have been detected in your breast before, you have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Family history: If your mother, sister, father or daughter has ever been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer in the future. This risk increases if your relative was diagnosed before the age of 50. Still, the majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
- Early menstruation: Early menstruation (before age 12) can increase your risk of developing breast cancer
- Late menopause: Women who begin menopause at an older age (after 55) are more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Having never been pregnant(Nuliparity): Women who have never been pregnant have a greater risk of breast cancer than do women who have had one or more pregnancies.
- Having your first child at an older age: Women who give birth to their first child after age 30 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Certain inherited genes: Mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase your risk for breast cancer. These genes can be inherited from parents. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may consider genetic testing to test for these genes
- Lack of Physical Activity: A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk for breast cancer.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of breast cancer. The risk is higher if you have already gone through menopause.
- Poor Diet: A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables increases your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Alcohol: Frequent alcohol consumption can increase your risk of breast cancer.
- Radiation to the Chest: Having radiation therapy to the chest at a young age can increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
Like most cancers, early symptoms of breast cancer are subtle, painless and will be missed unless you pay close attention to your breasts.
By performing monthly breast self-exams, you will be able to more easily identify any changes in your breast. Report to your doctor if you notice any changes. Breast exams should take the format of look, feel, and express.
LOOK out for
- Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling anywhere on the breast
- Unexplained swelling of the breast (especially if on one side only)
- Unexplained shrinkage of the breast (especially if on one side only)
- A nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted
- Skin of the breast, areola, or nipple that becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange
- Nipple tenderness (pain) or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area
- A change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast.
- A lump in the breast (It’s important to remember that all lumps should be investigated by a healthcare professional, but not all lumps are cancerous.)
- Bloody nipple discharge
- Clear nipple discharge
- Milky discharge: Note that although milky discharge is not linked to breast cancer, if you are not breastfeeding, you should have a milky discharge from the nipple checked by your doctor.
The presence of the above symptoms and signs do not automatically mean you have breast cancer. Nevertheless, you should have any of these symptoms investigated by a healthcare professional as soon as you notice them.
What should you do?
- Examine your breasts once every month
- Get your breasts examined by a doctor every 3 years if you are over the age of 20, and every year if you are over 40
- Get screened for breast cancer. You should mammogram your breasts yearly if you are over 40 years
- If you notice any changes in your breasts, don’t waste time trying unproven treatments, quickly report to a hospital and comply with treatment.
Be breast cancer aware. Early detection saves lives.