Breast cancer is more common than you think. Each year in the US, there will be 264,000 cases among women and 2,400 among men. Moreover, 42,000 women and 500 men lose their lives because of breast cancer each year.
Studies show that breast cancer occurs because of several factors. The main ones include age and gender. Women 50 and up are more likely to develop breast cancer than men.
What Is Breast Cancer?
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer that women experience. Breast cancer is found in the breast tissue when cells start growing and dividing uncontrollably, creating an abnormal tissue mass called a tumor.
If not detected in time, breast cancer can invade the entire breast tissue and form other tumors in the body as well. This process is called metastasis.
Here are some signs of breast cancer:
- Finding a lump in the breast
- A change in the size, contour, or shape of the breast
- Changes on the breast skin or nipple
- A thickening of the skin in your underarm or near the breast that remains throughout your menstruation cycle
- Redness on the nipple or breast
- A hard area underneath the breast skin that feels like marble
- Any kind of discharge, clear or bloody, from the nipples
The best way to detect a tumor is with a mammogram. When breast cancer is detected early, there are higher chances of the patient making a full recovery.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
The older you become, the more vulnerable you are to breast cancer. It is usually diagnosed after the age of 50.
History of Breast Cancer
Women who have had breast cancer in the past are likely to develop it in the future. Other breast conditions like lobular carcinoma or atypical hyperplasia can also increase the risk of breast cancer.
Women who start their menstruation before 12 and hit menopause after 55 are more likely to develop breast cancer.
This is because their bodies are exposed to hormones for longer, increasing the risk of breast cancer.
Low Activity Levels
Physical activity is not only for those who want to lose weight. In fact, fitness levels need to be maintained to remain healthy. Exercise is what keeps individuals healthy.
Women who do not exercise and are not physically active are more vulnerable to breast cancer.
Some women are naturally born with dense breasts. These breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, making it difficult to detect tumors on mammograms.
This is why women with dense breasts have a higher chance of getting breast cancer.
Some women are genetically vulnerable to breast cancer because they may have a sister, daughter, mother, or close relative who has developed breast cancer.
It doesn’t matter whether the relative is on the mother’s side or the father’s side. A close male relative with breast cancer can also increase a woman’s risk.
Exposure to Radiation Therapy
Women who receive treatment for illnesses like Hodgkin’s lymphoma are prone to breast cancer because they have received radiation therapy to their chest and breasts.
Some research links increased alcohol consumption to higher chances of developing breast cancer. Thus, postmenopausal women should limit their alcohol intake.
Genetics plays a vital role in breast cancer. Women who inherit gene mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 have a higher risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer.
This risk is significantly higher for women who receive radiation before 30.
Generally, overweight women or ones who become obese after menopause have a higher chance of developing breast cancer than those who remain at a healthy weight throughout their lives.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy that includes progesterone and estrogen, used during menopause, can increase the risk of breast cancer when administered for more than five years.
Birth control pills and other oral contraceptives are also linked to the risk of developing breast cancer.
Some factors increase women’s chances of developing breast cancer, such as becoming pregnant after 30, skipping the breast-feeding stage, and not having a full-term pregnancy.
The use of tobacco has been linked to different kinds of cancers, including breast cancer. Women, especially those in menopause and who smoke, should consider consulting with their doctor about smoking cessation programs.
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Even though you cannot completely prevent breast cancer, there are steps you can take to detect it early:
- Get mammograms regularly: It is recommended to get your first mammogram at age 35 and a screening mammogram each year after 40.
- Do a self-exam of your breasts every month: After the age of 20, you must examine your breasts thoroughly. Become familiar with the shape and contours of your breasts and inform your physician of any changes.
- Visit a health-care professional: Doctors are more likely to catch any irregularities such as lumps that mammograms cannot. Reach out to Imperial Center Family Medicine for more information about mammograms and breast care or to schedule an appointment..