With the exception of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women, according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
During the month of October, initiatives are usually worked on to raise awareness about this condition. Research over the years has shown that mammograms are the best method to detect breast cancer in its early stages, when it is easiest to treat, and before it is large enough to be felt when palpated or cause symptoms.
What is breast cancer
Breast cancer is a disease in which breast cells multiply uncontrollably. There are different types of breast cancer. The type of breast cancer depends on which breast cells become cancerous.
This condition can begin in different parts of the breast. The breasts consist of three main parts: lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. Lobules are the glands that produce milk. The ducts are the tubes that carry milk to the nipple. Connective tissue (made up of fibrous and adipose tissue) surrounds and supports all parts of the breast. Most breast cancers begin in the ducts or lobules.
Breast cancer can spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is considered to have metastasized.
What are some symptoms
There are different symptoms of breast cancer, and it's important to note that some people don't have any. Some symptoms of breast cancer are:
Any change in the size or shape of the breasts.
Pain anywhere in the breasts.
Discharge from the nipple other than milk (including blood).
Appearance of a lump in the breasts or under the arm.
If you have any worrisome symptoms or signs, see your doctor right away.
Get to know some risk factors
According to the CDC, some studies have shown that the risk of breast cancer depends on a combination of factors. The main factors that influence a person's risk include being a woman and getting older. Most breast cancers are found in women aged 50 and older.
Genetic changes have also been identified that influence the level of risk that each person may have of suffering from this condition. The CDC specifically mentions "inherited mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited these genetic changes are at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer."
How to reduce risk
There are a number of things you can do to prevent or decrease your risk of breast cancer. CDC recommends:
Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly..
Do not drink alcohol or, if you do, limit alcoholic beverages.
If you're receiving hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, talk to your doctor about the risks.
If possible, breastfeed your children.
*Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.