October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to learn about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, as well as the risk factors that can make you more likely to develop this disease. Knowledge is power, so arm yourself with the facts and be proactive about your breast health.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cells of the breast. Although breast cancer most commonly affects women, men can also develop this disease. There are several different types of breast cancer, depending on which cells in the breast are affected. The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, which starts in the milk ducts.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
The signs and symptoms of breast cancer vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer. In its early stages, breast cancer may not cause any symptoms at all. This is why regular self-exams and mammograms are so important. As the cancer grows, it may cause changes such as a lump in the breast or armpit, dimpling or puckering of the skin, nipple discharge or pain, or a change in the size or shape of the breast. If you notice any of these changes, it’s important to contact your doctor right away for further testing.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
There are several factors that can increase your risk for developing breast cancer. These include being female (since men can also develop this disease), getting older (the vast majority of cases are diagnosed in women over age 50), a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, certain genetic mutations (such as BRCA1 and BRCA2), dense breasts, previous radiation therapy to the chest area, obesity, alcohol consumption, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, starting menstruation at a young age or going through menopause at an older age, never giving birth or having your first child after age 30, and having certain benign breast conditions.
Most people have one or more risk factors for developing breast cancer. However, having a risk factor does not mean that you will definitely develop this disease – many people with multiple risk factors never go on to develop cancer. Conversely, some people who do not have any known risk factors still develop this disease. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of both your personal risks and your family medical history so that you can make informed decisions about your health care.
This October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – take charge of your breast health by learning about the signs and symptoms of this disease, as well as your personal risks. Talk to your doctor about when you should start getting mammograms and perform regular self-exams so that you can catch any changes early on. The earlier breast cancer is caught, the better chance you have at surviving it. So don’t wait – get informed today.