Taking the time to get educated on the ins and outs of breast cancer is vital to prevention and detection.
While many young women may not even have this disease on their radar — most women don’t start getting mammograms until their 30s — it can affect any age, any time. Sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to look up something so scary, we get it. But it’s important for every woman to know the signs, symptoms, and risks associated with breast cancer so she can own her health.
HOW COMMON IS BREAST CANCER?
The odds of a women developing breast cancer in her life is 12%, which is about a 1 in 8 chance. This may sound small, but breast cancer is the second largest cause of death in women after lung cancer. The odds are you or someone you know will be affected by this disease at some point in your life. But that commonality has become almost a benefit. Since this form is so common, there are several courses of treatment and constant research into breast cancer. The odds of survival after diagnosis are higher than ever at the moment.
IS THERE ANY WAY TO PREVENT BREAST CANCER?
Yes and no. There are definitely lifestyle changes you can make to help curb your likelihood of getting the disease. Things like watching your alcohol intake, weight, and staying physically active, can all be beneficial. There are other, more personal decisions that may have some bearing on your odds of having breast cancer. These include having children, breastfeeding, or the use of birth control. These things are all, of course, personal and the risks associated should be discussed with a doctor.
Unfortunately, there are certain predispositions that cannot be changed. Having a history of breast cancer in your family or the presence of certain genes in your body are unavoidable obstacles. You may also be more likely to develop breast cancer if you’ve had a benign lump before, like a cyst or harmless tumor. In these situations, knowing the warning signs and how to check yourself for them are more vital than ever to detecting any issues early.
WHAT ARE SOME SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?
One of the most important things to know is how your breasts normally look and feel. So gals, get into the bathroom and get to grabbing! This way if there are any changes or lumps, then you’ll know immediately that something’s off. But the warning signs can be different for every woman. A lump is, of course, the most common symptom that women think of when they think about breast cancer but there are several signs you may have without even having a lump that could be indicative of something serious.
Some less commonly known breast cancer symptoms include breast swelling, skin dimpling or reddening, pain, nipple retraction, and abnormal nipple discharge. You may also have pain in areas that aren’t even your breast. Sometimes the cancer can spread to nearby lymph nodes and cause pain around the armpits or collarbone before you can even tell there is a tumor at all. Bet you didn’t think of all that when you thought of breast cancer symptoms, and now you can be on the lookout for serious signs!
HOW IS BREAST CANCER DETECTED?
While the signs and symptoms listed above are all crucial in detecting cancer, sometimes the cancer is there before there are any tangible signs at all. This is why yearly breast cancer screenings are vital. If anything out of the ordinary is seen during a routine check-up, it may be probed further with a breast ultrasound to get a closer look. And if there is a tangible lump? Breast biopsies (basically when a sample of the lump is extracted by needle and tested for specific conditions) are the most common way to get a piece of the lump to test it for cancers. Biopsies are the only way to know if a lump is cancerous without invasive surgery.