October has long been designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). Established and carried on by some prominent breast cancer charities, it is an internationally recognized campaign that is directed towards spreading breast cancer awareness, accompanied by fundraising for research regarding its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.
Manhattan Medical Art is making its contribution with this blog, helping raise awareness, disseminating essential information, and also providing NYC women’s health care services.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer can be explained as a cancerous disease that enables breast cells to grow uncontrollably – The specific cell that turns cancerous is what determines the type of breast cancer.
A breast can be divided into three main parts, i.e. lobules, ducts, and connective tissue; while cancer can be initiated in any part of the breast, lobules or ducts are the most common breast parts for this disease. It also has the capability of spreading beyond the breast, which is done via lymph and blood vessels.
What Are The Types of Breast Cancer?
Listed below are the most common types of breast cancer:
- Invasive Ductal Carcinoma: Ducts are where the cancer cells are initiated, and eventually end up growing beyond, into the other parts of the tissues. In case of being invasive, these cancerous cells can metastasize further into the body.
- Invasive Lobular Carcinoma: Once the cancer cells are born into the lobules, they then start growing rapidly, and spreading to the tissues present next to them.
Some other types of breast cancers that are less commonly known are:
- Paget’s Disease
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer
What Are The Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer induces irregular early signs of breast cancer where different individuals experience separate signs of breast cancer, while some might not go through any symptoms at all. Listed below are a few commonly known symptoms of breast cancer:
- Lumps underneath the skin of the breast and armpit
- Experiencing swelling over the breast
- Breast skin seems to be dimpled or causing irritation
- Aching nipple, while also being pulled inwards
- Blood and other liquids discharging from nipples
- Altered size and shape of the breast
- Aching breasts
What Is A Breast Cancer Screening Test?
Breast cancer screening tests refer to the examination of a woman’s breast with the objective of identifying potential cancer, prior to any physical symptoms surfacing.
It is the responsibility of all healthcare providers to keep their patients informed and up-to-date on screening options. While breast cancer cannot be prevented or treated in any way through screening tests, they are immensely helpful in making a timely diagnosis.
The common screening tests for breast cancer are:
- Diagnostic Mammogram
- Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Breast Cancer Genetic testing
- Clinical Breast Exam
- BRCA Test
What Is Meant By Inherited Genetics Breast Cancer?
Almost 5 to 10 percent of cases of breast cancer are directly linked to the mutation of genes that are a result of generational inheritance.
Medical researchers have been successful in identifying the specific inherited mutated genes that are responsible for maximizing the chances of breast cancer. Two of the most common ones are gene 1 i.e. BRCA1, and breast cancer gene 2, i.e. BRCA2 – Either of the two are very capable of causing ovarian as well as breast cancer.
For people who have a family history of members having breast cancer or any cancer at all, make sure to ask your health care specialist to carry out a blood test to identify the mutations in BRCA; along with a referral to a genetic counselor, to have your family’s health history reviewed and studied, to determine if you might be at risk of developing cancerous cells.
What Are The Risk Factors For Breast Cancer?
Here is a list of a few factors that are linked to maximizing the risk for breast cancer:
- Age Factor: Age brings along with it, the risk of breast cancer – Even the majority of breast cancer cases are seen among women who’re aged over 50.
- Obesity and breast cancer: Being overweight and inactive also becomes a major cause of developing cancerous cells.
- Genetic Mutations: There are much higher chances for women to develop ovarian or breast cancer if they have inherited mutations to a specific gene.
- Reproductive History: The risk of getting breast cancer can be increased if women are exposed to hormones for a longer period of time, this can happen if they start menstruating before the age of 12, or experience menopause past the age of 55.
- Dense Breasts: Women who have breasts that are dense are much more prone to developing breast cancer. Since dense breasts are made up of more connective tissues than fatty tissues, it also makes it more difficult to identify a tumor with a mammogram.
- Family history: If a woman has had any first-degree family members i.e. daughter, mother, or a sister who’s had breast cancer – this can play an integral part in maximizing the risk for cancer in the woman.
- Prior Use of Radiation Therapy: If a woman undergoes a treatment that requires her to go through radiation therapy, this can also be a factor to increase her chances of getting breast cancer; especially if she gets it done before she turns 30.
There’s a drug named “Diethylstilbestrol” (DES); exposure to this drug can also become a cause of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Risk Reduction And Prevention
In order to reduce the risk of developing any cancerous cells in your body, there are certain adjustments to be made in your daily life. The best ways for breast cancer risk reduction are:
- Inquire about screenings for breast cancer: Consult your physician and decide the appropriate time and strategy have these breast cancer screenings done.
- Develop a habit of self-examination: Getting familiar with your own breasts through self-examination at regular intervals, enables you to identify any irregularities or changes in your breasts, such as lumps or other signs. While self-examination does not prevent breast cancer, it allows you to timely identify the signs, for early treatment.
- Alcohol limitations: We all are aware of how harmful alcohol is, and should not be consumed at all – However, women who do choose to drink, should maintain a limitation of one drink in a day, in order to avoid the development of breast cancer.
- Physical Exercise: Physical exercise helps you with countless health problems, along with reducing the chances of breast cancer. Try to work out or play a sport, at least 5 days out of the week, with a minimum duration of 30-50 minutes on a daily basis.
What age should you check for breast cancer?
As mentioned earlier in the blog, aging is also a factor that increases the risk of breast cancer. Most women, as high as 80% of the women get diagnosed with breast cancer after the age of 45, while 43% develop and identify breast cancer once they’ve crossed age 65.
– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.
About The AuthorDr. Syra Hanif M.D.
Board Certified Primary Care Physician
Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.Read More