American women have a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer sometime during their life. Nearly a quarter million new, positive diagnoses of the disease will occur in the U.S. this year. The good news is breast cancer treatments and pharmaceuticals have dramatically improved in recent years, and new ones continue to emerge. Still, the basic guidance remains the same; early detection is key, as is knowing hereditary factors and warning signs that lead to a prompt diagnosis and successful treatment. During this October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, consider these reminders for awareness and prevention.
Invaluable Role of Family and Personal History
Knowing if a relative had breast cancer is vital since family history plays such a significant role in incidence rate. Find out if at all possible. Knowledge of personal medical history also is crucial. For example, oncologists report women with cancer in one breast are at increased risk for the disease in the other. Dense breast tissue increases disease risk, as does not having children or bearing a first child after age 30. Oral contraceptive use, alcohol consumption, and becoming overweight after menopause may increase risk slightly. Finally, breast cancer susceptibility rises with age, with White women generally at higher risk than Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native-American women.
Symptoms and Warning Signs
Thanks to regular screening mammography, radiologists and oncologists are spotting more breast cancer early before outward signs appear. Knowledgeable patients also play a fundamental role by paying attention to common warning signs and seeking medical help promptly. Signs and symptoms include:
- A new lump or mass that appears on or near the breast, such as locations like armpits or the collarbone.
- Swelling of part of or the entire breast.
- Soreness or pain in the nipple or breast.
- The nipple no longer protrudes but pulls back into the breast.
- Any irritation, dimpling, scaling, redness, or thickening of breast skin.
- A fluid discharging from the breast or nipple other than milk.
Make an appointment with your physician or nearby cancer center should any of these issues arise. Don’t delay.