October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As of now, there is no single answer to what causes breast cancer. Instead, there are several risk factors associated with the disease that affects women globally. Find out the signs and more about the breast cancer risk factors.
1. It is the Most Commonly Diagnosed Cancer in Women
About 1 in 8 women will at some point in their life receive a breast cancer diagnosis. And every 13 minutes a woman dies from the condition. And even though death rates have gone down since 1989, there are still thousands of women suffering each year. Cases have been limited largely in part due to increased awareness, treatment improvements, and early detection methods.
2. The Symptoms are Often Unseen
In addition to being the most common cancer for women, breast cancer is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed ones too. The failure to carry out further testing by physicians to confirm the presence of cancer is often to blame for this inaccurate appraisal. Hopefully, Breast Cancer Awareness Month can start to change that. Some of the most common early-onset symptoms women should be cautious of include:
- Irritation of the skin
- Breast pain or swelling
- Redness of the nipple or skin of the breast
- Pain or inward turning of the nipple
- Discharge from the nipple (other than milk)
3. Mammograms are Necessary for Women Age 40 and Older
Mammograms, which use an x-ray to analyze breast tissue, can detect breast lumps before women may feel them. It can also show tiny calcium clusters that may indicate early onset of breast cancer or other conditions. Most physicians recommend that women age 40 and older get a mammogram every 1-2 years. Younger women, under the age of 40, who have direct family members with a this particular cancer diagnosis are best to talk to their healthcare provider about the benefits of the x-ray.
If a doctor finds a mass or calcification, this doesn’t always mean it’s cancer. To verify the diagnosis, the doctor will conduct an ultrasound or MRI. In certain cases, a biopsy will happen to analyze tissue from a concerning area under a microscope. What better time than now in October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
4. There are Many Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Several risk factors link to women who develop breast cancer during their life. While some of these influences relate to an individual’s biological makeup, others stem from lifestyle factors.
- Age. The chance of getting breast cancer increases with age. Half of women who get this diagnosis are 63 years old or more.
- Lifestyle Factors. Certain activities, such as alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and even working nights, may lead to a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Early Menstruation and Late Menopause. Women who began menstruating before age 12 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk than those who started after 12 years old. The reason is likely due to longer exposure to estrogen and progesterone. Similarly, women who went through menopause later than others have more of this particular cancer risk because of extended hormone exposure.
- Family History. Women whose mother, sisters, aunts, or grandmothers had the disease are more likely also to develop this same type of cancer.
5. Certain Lifestyle Actions Can Lower Your Risk
Here’s something else know in Breast Cancer Awareness Month and after: Women who become pregnant at least once tend to have a lower rate of breast cancer. Likewise, research has shown that mothers who breastfeed also have a lower risk of the disease. Removal of the ovaries may also lower risk by reducing how much estrogen is in the body. However, this is a serious decision and only one to consider if completely necessary.
Here are other ways to change your lifestyle to help reduce breast cancer risk:
- Have a healthy diet and weight
- Stop smoking
- Limit how much alcohol you drink
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month
As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, make time to visit your doctor. Ask them the difficult questions about your risk of cancer, as well as scheduling a screening. Doing so is even more important if you are at a high risk of this cancer. Regular tests for the disease can help to detect it earlier and keep it from spreading, if found. For your long-term health and well-being, get yearly checks and listen to your body.