In October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is observed. The National Breast Cancer Foundation describes breast cancer as, “a broad term for a class of diseases characterized by abnormal cells that grow and invade healthy cells in the body. Breast cancer starts in the cells of the breast as a group of cancer cells that can then invade surrounding tissues or spread to other areas of the body.” Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women but can affect individuals of any age and gender. In fact, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer throughout the entirety of their lives. Risk factors for breast cancer include high radiation exposure, family history of breast cancer, family history of cancer-related to the BRCA2 gene, poor diet and lifestyle habits, inactivity, and dense breast tissue. The main demographic afflicted with breast cancer is Caucasian women over the age of 55.
Early Warning Signs
Breast cancer presents several warning signs and symptoms including:
- Change in size and shape of one or both breasts
- Skin tissue changes on one or both breasts including swelling, redness, pitting of the skin, and itchiness
- Discharge from the nipple
- Lumps or nodes felt inside of breasts
- Pain in breasts
- Change in appearance in one or both nipples
- Peeling or flaking of nipples
Prevention and Action
There are many preventions that you can take to detect cancer early and reduce your risk of development. By getting an annual mammogram, you can practice secondary prevention through early detection. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that assesses breast tissue to determine abnormalities. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, consisting of a healthy diet and high activity level, can decrease the chance of developing breast cancer. It is important to always follow up with a health provider if you notice any significant changes in your health.
Anthem Blue Cross. (2018). Top 10 Breast Cancer Myths. Retrieved from https://timewellspent-ca.anthem.com/uploads/bc/bc-article-top-10-breast-cancer-myths.pdf.
National Breast Cancer Foundation. (2016). What is Breast Cancer? Retrieved from https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/what-is-breast-cancer.
Breast Cancer Now. (2018). What Causes Breast Cancer? Retrieved from https://breastcancernow.org/about-breast-cancer/want-to-know-about-breast-cancer/what-can-cause-breast-cancer/myths-about-causes-of-breast-cancer.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America. (2018). What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer? Retrieved from https://www.cancercenter.com/breast-cancer/symptoms/.