Did you know breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women? And on top of being one of the most common cancers, breast cancer is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed. Sometimes this is a failure by physicians to carry out follow-up testing to confirm the presence of tumors or calcium build-ups. But it can be because busy mothers have a hard time finding the time to visit the doctor for regular check-ups, physicals, breast exams, and annual mammograms.
Do you know if you are at high risk of breast cancer? Do you know the steps you can take to lower the chances of developing breast cancer?
What are the Symptoms?
Common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Dimples or irritation of the skin
- Pain or swelling of the breast
- Thickening or redness of the nipple or skin of the breast
- Pain or inward turning of the nipple
- Discharge from the nipple (other than milk)
In many cases, there are no obvious signs or symptoms of breast cancer, which is why it is important to have regular screenings.
Who is at Risk?
There is no one root cause of breast cancer, but instead, a variety of risk factors associated with the disease. Some are simply based on an individual’s biological makeup, while others relate to lifestyle factors.
Many women are unaware of the fact that if a first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) develops breast cancer in their lifetime, it almost doubles a her risk of developing the disease.
- As you age, your chances of developing breast cancer increases substantially. Most breast cancers are diagnosed at age 50 and older.
- The use of tobacco, working late nights and drinking alcohol excessively are also red flags when it comes to risks of breast cancer.
Early Menstruation and/or Late Menopause
- Women that began menstruating before age 12 have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer due to longer exposure to estrogen and progesterone. And similarly, women who went through menopause later than normal have an increased risk due to extended hormone exposure.
- Being overweight or obese, especially in postmenopausal women, can be harmful to a woman’s long-term health and wellness.
How can women reduce their risk?
There’s no guaranteed method. However, there are best practices and preventative measures you can follow to limit your risk.
- Through maintaining a healthy diet and weight, as well as avoiding smoking and limiting one’s alcohol consumption, you may be able to ensure your body’s wellness for years to come.
Breast Cancer Screenings
- By receiving regular screenings for the disease, usually done on an annual basis, you dramatically lower your risk of breast cancer. Mammograms are recommended for women age 40 and older.
- Surgeries such as breast reduction (prophylactic mastectomy) and the removal of the ovaries will lower the amount of estrogen in the body, and stop calcium deposits from forming.
What is the Purpose of Mammograms?
Mammograms, which are a form of x-ray used by physicians and conducted by radiologists, analyze breast tissue and detect breast cancer even in early stages. These screenings are effective in finding breast lumps before they can be felt. Additionally, it has the capability to illuminate tiny calcium clusters within the breast, which is one of the leading indicators of breast cancer or other conditions.
It is recommended that every woman over the age of 40 should get a mammogram every 1-2 years. If you are younger than 40, but know you are at an increased risk for breast cancer, it is advised that you consult with your doctor about a scheduling a screening and the preventative measures you can take to lower the possibility of being diagnosed.
How Are Mammograms Performed?
In order to perform a mammogram, each breast is flattened between two plastic plates and an x-ray is taken of the breast tissue. In total, four x-ray images are captured to allow for different views of the tissue. A radiologist will then review the images, looking for any abnormalities such as calcium deposits or masses that may indicate breast cancer.
In the U.S. alone, 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. And roughly 40,920 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2018 from breast cancer. Armed with this knowledge, the importance of mammograms is becoming more and more evident.