Breast cancer is the second-most common kind of cancer in women, affecting roughly one in eight of them. The good news is that most women survive when it’s found and treated early. Encouraging women aged 40 to 49 to speak with their doctors about when to start getting mammograms is very important for early detection. It’s important to remember that men can get breast cancer as well, although this is quite rare, being less than 1% of all cases, Richard Roundtree from the film “Shaft” and rock band KISS’s drummer Peter Criss both survived male breast cancer.
How cancer is formed
When the breast’s cells grow out of control it is possible for a tumor to form. Some studies point to high estrogen levels, which regulate the division of breast cells. The more cells divide, the more likely they are to be abnormal, possibly becoming cancerous.
Breast cancer may begin in many different parts of the breast, but commonly it does so in the breast ducts – thin tubes that carry milk from milk-producing lobules to the nipple during nursing. Breast cancer may also begin in the lobules of the breast.
Knowing what is normal for the breast is important in self-monitoring. A properly given self-exam is essential in spotting breast cancer, even though early stages sometimes have no symptoms. In most cases the first sign that something is wrong will be an unusual lump in the breast that needs to be examined by a doctor.
- swelling of all, or part of, the breast
- skin irritation or dimpling
- breast pain, nipple pain or inversion, redness, scaliness
- thickening of the nipple or the breast’s skin,
- lump in the underarm area
Luckily breast cancer is often treatable. Treatments range from invasive surgeries to what’s called systemic, or targeted, therapies. It usually begins with surgery, often followed by radiation. This is referred to as “local therapy” because it only treats the breast area where the cancer occurred, while systemic therapies, also known as adjuvant therapies, are delivered to the whole body.
These therapies ideally work to prevent cancer from reoccurring, by killing cancer cells that may have spread to other areas outside the breast. Treatment plans will largely depend on factors including the stage of disease, size of tumor and other individual factors.
How to reduce the risk of breast cancer:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that increased body weight and weight gain increase the risk of breast cancer after menopause.
- Be active! This will support your healthy weight goals but has other benefits as well. Try to have at least 150 minutes workout a week. (or 30 minutes a day).
- Limit or avoid alcohol. Even moderate alcohol consumption may increase breast cancer risk. By not drinking more alcohol than 350ml of beer or 150ml of wine or 45ml of spirits a day you help reduce your risk.
- It’s 2017 so this shouldn’t have to be said; “If you are a smoker, stop smoking!”
A woman’s age is the most prominent risk factor. Most breast cancers occur in women over 50.
Family history and genetics are factors in having a heightened risk. But surprisingly, eight out of 10 affected women do not have any family history of it. If you, or someone you know, experience any unusual, or out of the ordinary, breast symptoms or changes it should be reported as quickly as possible to a GP or gynecologist for a further examination.
Similarly, men experiencing any abnormal lumps in the breast or nipple area should never ignore it and seek medical aid right away before it turns into something more serious.