Did you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? With 1 in 8 women suffering from breast cancer today, it’s essential to spread awareness about this condition and what trouble signs to look for. Grab your pink, and let’s dive into all things breast cancer.
How Does Breast Cancer Start
Firstly, breast cancer is a form of cancer that starts to grow in breast tissue cells. Breast cancer cells usually form a tumor that can be seen on an x-ray and monogram or can be felt as a lump. It’s important to understand that not all lumps felt in the breast are cancerous; in fact, many are benign. However, we do encourage you to be checked by a health care professional to determine if the lump is a threat and if it might affect your future cancer risk.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while breast cancer generally occurs in women, men can get breast cancer, too.
Get To Know The Risk Factors
Risk Factors You Can’t Control
- Getting older. The older you get, the greater the risk, unfortunately. Most cases of breast cancer are diagnosed after the age of 50.
- Reproductive history. The longer the exposure to hormones, the greater the risk of developing breast cancer. Women who started menstrual periods before age 12 and/or starting menopause after age 55 are at greater risk.
- Having dense breasts. Dense breasts mean you have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can increase your chances of developing cancer and make it harder to see tumors on a mammogram.
- Personal history of breast cancer. Those who have already had breast cancer once are more likely to relapse.
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer. A person’s risk for breast cancer is higher if they have a first-degree relatives, male or female, that have had either breast cancer or ovarian cancer.
- Women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was prescribed to some pregnant women in the United States between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, have a higher risk. This risk is also passed to women whose mothers took DES while pregnant.
Risk Factors You Can Control
- Not being physically active. Those who live a sedentary lifestyle and do not include regular physical activity have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older individuals who are overweight or obese are at higher risk than those at a normal weight.
- Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy, including birth control, can raise the risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years.
- Reproductive history. Having your first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and/ or never having a full-term pregnancy can also increase your risk.
Signs Of Breast Cancer To Look Out For
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. Lumps and masses can be painless, irregular in shape, tender, soft, round or painful. For this reason, it’s essential to have any new breast mass, lump, or breast change checked by an experienced health care professional.
Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Swelling of the breast, all or part of the breast (even if no lump is felt)
- Skin dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction or turning inwards
- Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, or flaking
- Nipple discharge
- Swollen lymph nodes
Remember that knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular mammograms and screenings. Finding breast cancer early gives you a better chance of successful treatment.
The Importance Of Screening For Early Detection
Doctors highly recommend that women between the ages of 50 to 74 years old schedule a mammogram every two years as part of their preventative care. Women at high risk should speak to their doctor or health care professional about what their preventive care should look like including when to begin getting routine mammograms and how frequently they will need to re-screen.
Breast cancer screening is generally available at clinics, hospitals, or your primary doctor’s office. It’s important to note that most health insurance plans cover preventative screenings and or mammograms every one to two years for women beginning at age 40 with no out-of-pocket cost.
Are you worried about cost, don’t have insurance, or are you unsure if your insurance covers breast cancer screenings? CDC offers free or low-cost mammograms. Find out if you qualify.
What Type Of Screenings Are Out There?
Mammograms: Simply put, a mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best way to detect early breast cancer for many women, so it is easier to treat the cancer before becoming big enough to feel or cause symptoms.
Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A breast MRI uses magnets and radio waves to take pictures of the breast. Breast MRI is used along with mammograms to screen women who are at high risk.
Clinical Breast Exam: A clinical breast exam is an examination by a doctor or nurse who uses their hands to feel for lumps or other changes in breast tissue. This type of exam is generally used for those under 40 who are at average risk.
Self- Test: It’s essential to know your breasts so you can be aware of any changes such as lumps, new pain, and changes in size. Although having regular screenings is the most important, it’s also vital to regularly self-test at home and report any changes you notice to your doctor or health care provider.
Go Pink And Save The Ta-Tas!
With over 334,000 new breast cancer cases in the United States each year, everyone knows someone who has been affected by this condition. Throughout October, we encourage you to wear pink, educate yourself, donate if you can, and get involved to spread awareness.
Here at GeniusRx, we are always committed to your health and helping you learn more. If you have questions or concerns, be sure to visit us online, chat with a pharmacist, or give us a call.