October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and as 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime, it's important to educate on who is at risk of this vicious disease. Not only are women susceptible to breast cancer, but men can also be diagnosed as well. Thanks to increased awareness, medical advances, and early detection methods - the survival rate of people who are diagnosed has increased largely.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women, and every 13 minutes a woman dies from the disease. Unfortunately, it is also commonly misdiagnosed despite early detection methods like yearly mammograms. These mammogram scans can be misinterpreted resulting in either a false-positive or false-negative breast cancer diagnosis. It is important to know prevention methods, be able to recognize the signs and symptoms, as well as attend your yearly well-woman exam to make sure you are not at immediate risk.
In a lot of cases, breast cancer often comes with no obvious signs or symptoms. By conducting regular self-exams, you can become familiar with your breasts and recognize any abnormalities should they arise. People who experience changes in their breasts usually notice one or two abnormalities, so it's important to know some of the most common symptoms and changes you may come across.
- Dimples or Irritation on the Skin
- Pain or Swelling of the Breast
- Discharge from the Nipple (other than milk)
- Thickening or Redness of the Nipple or Skin of the Breast
- Pain or Inward Turning of the Nipple
- A Lump in the Breast
Don’t panic if you are experiencing any of these symptoms as they don’t always allude to breast cancer. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or any abnormalities in general, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
There are many different risk factors involved in the development of breast cancer. Some are controllable, such as lifestyle habits, and some are uncontrollable and in someone’s biologic makeup. One example of a controllable risk factor is a woman’s weight. Typically, postmenopausal women that are overweight have an increased risk of developing breast cancer due to more fat tissue leading to higher estrogen levels, which is a major risk of breast cancer. Another example is that most of the women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50, but that doesn’t mean younger woman aren’t diagnosed. If you have an immediate family history of breast cancer such as your mother, or if you are a carrier of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations, you are at an increased risk of developing the disease.
However, there are things you can do to decrease your risk of breast cancer. You can start by maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes daily exercise, a healthy diet and avoiding tobacco products. By making sure you are attending your regular screenings, especially if you are at high risk due to family history, you are decreasing your risk. Some women who are high risk choose to have a prophylactic masectomy. The women who choose this route usually have a family history of breast cancer, have been confirmed to have the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genetic mutation, or have already had breast cancer in one breast.
If you have any abnormalities in your breasts or if you believe you’re at risk of breast cancer, talk to your doctor right away. And be sure to visit ConsumerSafety.org for more Breast Cancer Awareness information as well as general health and safety tips for you and your family.