What Every Woman Should Know About Breast Cancer

Every woman should understand the risks of breast cancer. Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in women around the world. According to cancer.org, the average risk for women to get breast cancer is around 13%. Recent data also shows that there will be around 297,790 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women this year. 1 in 7 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime, even without a family history.

Risk Factors to Remember

Understanding the risk factors associated with breast cancer is essential for early detection and prevention. Here are some of the most common risk factors to be aware of.

  • Age: As you get older, your chances of developing breast cancer increase. The average age at which women get breast cancer is 62, but that age has been on a decreasing trend.
  • Family history: Having a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) who has/had breast cancer increases your risk of getting it too. However, it is not at all uncommon for women with no family history to get breast cancer, so do not skip those mammograms.
  • Genetic mutations: Some inherited genetic mutations can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. The most common genes linked to this are BRCA1 and BRCA2.
  • Personal history: If you’ve had breast cancer before, there’s an increased risk of you getting it again. A personal history of certain breast conditions can enhance your risk of breast cancer as well. Non-cancerous breast diseases like atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ are associated with a higher risk. The cells in these conditions resemble those in low-grade invasive breast cancer but are not yet fully transformed into cancerous cells. Regular check-ups can help monitor all of these conditions.

Many other factors can increase your risk of breast cancer. Women who start their menstrual cycle at an early age (before 12 years) have a slightly higher risk, as are those with denser breast tissue. Women who go through menopause after 55 years of age have a higher risk of breast cancer as well. Smoking, alcohol use, and being overweight or obese also increase your risk.
If you are concerned about your specific risks of getting cancer, speak with a healthcare professional. They can help assess your risks and create a personalized screening plan.

Types of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is not a simple disease. There are several types, each with different characteristics, outcomes, and treatment options. Here are a few of the most common types that you should be aware of.

  1. Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS): This non-invasive breast cancer begins in the milk ducts. In DCIS, the cells appear abnormal under a microscope but have not spread to surrounding tissues. DCIS is typically referred to as Stage 0 breast cancer.
  2. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC): This is the most common type of breast cancer. IDC begins in the milk ducts and spreads to the surrounding tissue. It can also spread to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic system.
  3. Lobular Carcinoma In-Situ (LCIS): Similar to DCIS, it is a non-invasive breast cancer that arises in the lobules of the breast. It is also considered Stage 0.
  4. Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC): This type starts in the milk-producing glands, known as lobules. Similar to IDC, ILC can spread to other parts of the body. Unlike ductal carcinoma, lobular carcinoma has a higher risk of developing in the opposite breast later on.
  5. Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: This aggressive type of breast cancer lacks three key receptors: estrogen, progesterone, and HER2/neu, limiting treatment options.
  6. Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer: This type has receptors for either estrogen (ER-positive) or progesterone (PR-positive), which promote cancer growth. Hormone therapy is often effective for this type.
  7. HER2Neu Positive Breast Cancer: This type is characterized by an overproduction of the HER2Neu protein, promoting cancer growth. It can be more aggressive than other types, but targeted therapies can treat it effectively.

Understanding the type of breast cancer is crucial for determining the right treatment plan. If you or someone you know is diagnosed, be sure to discuss with the medical team about the specific type and what it means for treatment options.

Signs of Breast Cancer

Women must be informed about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. This is because early detection can lead to a higher chance of successful treatment. These are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Changes in breast size or shape: Unusual changes in the size or shape of your breasts could be a sign of breast cancer. This could be a sudden increase in size or a significant shrinking.
  • Lumps or thickening of the tissue: At times, a firm lump or an area of thickening in the breast or underarm area can indicate breast cancer. It’s important to note that not all lumps are cancerous, but they should always be checked by a doctor.
  • Changes in the skin: This could include puckering, dimpling, scaling, or redness of the skin on the breast or nipple.
  • Nipple changes or discharge: One early sign of breast cancer could be a newly turned inward (inverted) nipple or a nipple discharge other than breast milk such as bloody or green discharge.
  • Breast or nipple pain: While breast pain is more commonly associated with benign conditions, it can also be a symptom of breast cancer.

If you notice any of these symptoms or changes in your breasts, consult with a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Regular self-examinations and mammograms are important tools for early detection. If you have any questions about how to perform self-breast exams or about the frequency of screenings, please consult with a healthcare provider.

Early Detection is Key

Early detection is crucial when it comes to breast cancer. When caught early, the chances of successful treatment increase, and you will have more options. The most common way to detect breast cancer early is through regular mammograms. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray image of the breast tissue. It can be used to check for any abnormalities, even before they can be felt by hand.

Screening mammograms are recommended for women who have an average risk of breast cancer, starting at age 40. However, it is important to note that this recommendation may vary depending on your personal risk factors.

The best way to detect breast cancer early is with a yearly clinical breast exam performed by your provider AND a yearly screening mammogram. Yearly breast exams should start by age 24.
For patients with a strong family history, a risk factor assessment can be done to determine if more needs to be done to prevent or detect breast cancer such as yearly MRI and/or medical treatment.

Take Steps to Prevent Breast Cancer

While there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, certain healthy lifestyle habits can lower your risk. These include the following.

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Breastfeeding

Get the Best Women’s Healthcare in Amarillo, TX

Breast cancer is a serious disease that affects millions of women every year. Understanding the associated risks can help you take proactive steps to prevent and detect cancer early on. At Women’s Healthcare Associates, we understand that breast cancer is a scary topic to discuss. We treat every patient with respect, dignity, and empathy so you won’t have to worry about feeling uncomfortable. If you have concerns about breast cancer, reach out to us at (806) 355-6330 to schedule an appointment with a member of our caring team.

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Amarillo, TX 79106

Phone: (806) 355-6330

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© Women'Healthcare Associates 2017 - All rights reserved
Website design and marketing by UCI Digital