Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. Nearly everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. That’s because breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Risk factors include being younger when you had your first menstrual period, never giving birth, or being older at the birth of your first child, starting menopause at a later age, being overweight, especially after menopause, using hormone replacement therapy for a long time, a personal history of breast cancer, a family history of breast cancer (parent, sibling, or child), changes in your breast cancer-related genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2), getting radiation therapy to the breast or chest.
Early breast cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms. But as the tumor grows, it can change how the breast looks or feels i.e. a lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area, change in the size or shape of the breast, dimpling or puckering in the skin of the breast, nipple turned inward into the breast, discharge (fluid) from the nipple especially if it’s bloody, scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast or nipple, the skin may have pitting so that it looks like an orange
Most women who develop breast cancer do not have any known risk factors and nearly 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history. However, you can help lower your risk of breast cancer in many ways like a healthy diet & exercise (at least four hours a week) routine can reduce your chance for breast cancer by nearly 40%. So keep healthy weight, don’t drink alcohol, breast feed your babies, avoid exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer, reduce exposure to radiations and don’t take oral contraceptive pills / hormone replacement therapy without asking your doctor.
Breast cancer screening means checking a woman’s breasts for cancer before she has any symptoms. A number of screening tests have been employed, including clinical and self-breast examination, mammography, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging.
A clinical or self-breast examination involves feeling the breast for any abnormalities like lumps etc. A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast and are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Most women who are 50 to 74 years old should have a screening mammogram every two years. (CDC guidelines).
Earlier, more aggressive, and more frequent screening is recommended for women at particularly high risk of developing breast cancer, such as those with a confirmed BRCA-mutation, those who have previously had breast cancer, and those with a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer.
Abnormal findings on screening are further investigated by surgically removing a piece of the suspicious lumps to examine them under the microscope.
Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and has a better survival rate up to 98%.