Understanding Breast Cancer
For good reason, millions of people wear pink in support of breast cancer awareness. According to research, around 12 percent of women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point.1 Even worse, 67 percent of women over the age of 40 fail to get a yearly mammogram.2 This means they could be unknowingly living with this dangerous cancer.
In order to best catch breast cancer, make sure to learn about the disease and its symptoms, risk factors, and treatments.
What is Breast Cancer?
Like most forms of cancer, breast cancer stems from abnormal cell growth. Often, a malignant tumor develops in the milk-producing glands. As time progresses, the cancerous breast cells may gradually start to invade the healthy tissue.
Failing to take immediate action makes long-term recovery far more difficult. While the symptoms of breast cancer are treatable, there is currently no cure for this disease.3
Signs and Symptoms
If you notice a tough knot when pressing against your breast, schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.
While breasts are naturally lumpy, hardness often indicates a big problem. This hard cluster of tissue can feel tender or completely painless.
It is normal for a woman to experience nipple discharge. However, discharge that occurs without the nipple being squeezed should raise a red flag. This is especially true if the leaking liquid is clear or bloody.
While you could be suffering from a simple infection or experiencing the side effects of taking a certain medication, breast cancer is a possibility.
Even if you do not feel any hard lumps in your breast, be cautious of any swelling. This could be a result of cancerous cells blocking the normal flow of fluid. Along with the swelling, often comes dimpling of the skin.
Breast cancer can cause your nipple to turn inward. Any time you encounter new nipple changes, it is in your best interest to get evaluated by a medical professional.
Skin Texture Changes
When experiencing skin texture changes in the breast area, dermatitis or eczema could be the root of the problem. However, you should not rule out breast cancer.
Expect your skin to feel like it has been sunburned. It may also have a red or bluish tint.
Fatigue can develop for several different reasons, including a lack of sleep and unhealthy eating habits. However, constant tiredness could indicate something more serious like breast cancer.4
Being a Woman
It is no secret that women are more prone to having breast cancer. In fact, a woman is 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than a man.5
Breast cancer can occur at a young age. However, your risk will increase as you get older.
Dense Breast Tissue
Dense breast tissue increases the likelihood of cancer. This is because thick tissue makes it more difficult to detect tumorous lumps. Even a mammogram may not spotlight the knots.
Personal Health History
Women who have been previously been diagnosed with breast cancer are at a higher risk of developing the disease. Cancer could occur in a different part of the same breast or in the other breast.
Overweight women have a higher chance of getting breast cancer. After menopause, the risk factor heightens.
Breastfeeding and Reproduction History
Many physicians recommend mothers practice breastfeeding. Doing so can lower the risk of breast cancer in the future.
If you have never given birth or decide to have a child at an older age, there is also a greater chance of breast cancer developing.6
This is the least invasive and most treatable stage of breast cancer. Recovery rates for stage 0 breast cancer are extremely high.
While stage I breast cancer can be treated, it is a bit more serious. The cancer has invaded the fatty breast tissue.
In the event of a tumor is found, it is likely small.
During this stage, cancer has started to spread further. There is also a much greater chance for a tumor to be present.
Stage III breast cancer is obviously harder to fight. Cancer has spread deeper into your lymph nodes.
A stage IV breast cancer diagnosis means then cancerous cells have spread to other parts of the body. Some of the likely organs include the liver, lungs, brain, and bones.7
Surgery is typically a necessary course of action for breast cancer.
Depending upon the severity and location of the cancer, a mastectomy may be necessary. This surgery involves removing the whole breast, which is the most aggressive option.
However, doctors may be able to preserve the breast by performing a lumpectomy. This is especially true for women who have a smaller tumor. They may be able to successfully remove only a portion of the breast tissue.
Healing usually takes several weeks. Afterward, breast reconstruction will help give the bosom a more natural look. Implants are another option to consider.
Radiation therapy is often recommended after surgery. It is designed to kill the remaining cancer cells using high-energy waves.
Although radiation therapy can have positive results, there will be some side effects. The most common include fatigue and blistering of the skin.8
Chemotherapy involves treating the cancer with powerful drugs, which can be injected directly into your veins or administered orally. Because these medicines are so potent, hair loss is a usual side effect.
The goal of chemotherapy is to shrink the tumor, thus making it easier to remove. Chemo is also advised for advanced breast cancer that has spread throughout the body.
To stop estrogen from fueling the growth of cancerous tissue, hormone therapy is often recommended. Although hormone therapy will not cure cancer, this treatment may prevent it from worsening.
Targeted therapy is among the newest ways to attack breast cancer. Its purpose is to boost the functioning of the immune system. The body will then start to naturally destroy the cancerous cells.9
The fight against cancer remains a big issue in America.
While a cure is still being sought, women can elevate their chances of survival with early detection. Therefore, you should not hesitate to get an annual breast screening. Furthermore, always tell your doctor about any unusual breast problems.