Breast cancer awareness

Keeping informed on breast cancer

Posted 10/6/21

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.

Some warning signs of breast cancer …

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Breast cancer awareness

Keeping informed on breast cancer

Posted

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.

Some warning signs of breast cancer are:

  • New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.

Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer.

If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.

What is a normal breast?

No breast is typical. What is normal for you may not be normal for another woman. Most women say their breasts feel lumpy or uneven. The way your breasts look and feel can be affected by getting your period, having children, losing or gaining weight, and taking certain medications. Breasts also tend to change as you age.

For more information, see the National Cancer Institute’s https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/breast-changes.

What do lumps in my breast mean?

Many conditions can cause lumps in the breast, including cancer. But most breast lumps are caused by other medical conditions.

The two most common causes of breast lumps are fibrocystic breast condition and cysts. Fibrocystic condition causes noncancerous changes in the breast that can make them lumpy, tender, and sore. Cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that can develop in the breast.

Source: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Even young women can get breast cancer.
Even young women can get breast cancer.

Breast cancer in young women

Although breast cancer mostly occurs among older women, in rare cases breast cancer does affect women under the age of 45. About nine percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age.

Breast cancer in young women is:

  • More likely to be hereditary than breast cancer in older women.
  • More likely to be found at a later stage, and is often more aggressive and difficult to treat.
  • Often coupled with unique issues, including concerns about body image, fertility, finances and feelings of isolation.

All women are at risk for getting breast cancer, but some things can raise a woman’s risk for getting breast cancer before age 45. Learning what factors increase your chance of getting breast cancer is an important first step in assessing your risk. Learning the symptoms of breast cancer also may also help you know when to talk to your doctor.

Source: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

When breast cancer is inherited

Sometimes, changes or “mutations” occur that prevent genes from doing their job properly. Certain mutations in the BRCA genes make cells more likely to divide and change rapidly, which can lead to cancer.

All women have BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but only some women have mutations in those genes. About one in every 500 women in the United States has a mutation in either her BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. If either your mother or your father has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, you have a 50 percent chance of having the same mutation.

 
 

Some groups are at a higher risk for a BRCA gene mutation than others, including women with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.

Why brca gene mutations matter

Not every woman who has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation will get breast or ovarian cancer, but having a gene mutation puts you at an increased risk for these cancers.

About 50 out of 100 women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation will get breast cancer by the time they turn 70 years old, compared to only seven out of 100 women in the general United States population.

About 30 out of 100 women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation will get ovarian cancer by the time they turn 70 years old, compared to fewer than one out of 100 women in the general U.S. population.

What you can do

If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may have a higher breast cancer risk. Talk to your doctor about these ways of reducing your risk:

Surgery to reduce your risk of breast cancer. That includes prophylactic (preventive) mastectomy (removal of breast tissue) and prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes).

Antiestrogens or other medicines that block or decrease estrogen in your body.

It is important that you know your family history and talk to your doctor about screening and other ways you can lower your risk.

For more information about breast cancer prevention, visit https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-prevention-pdq.

Source: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

 Studies have shown that your risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors. First, being female and getting older: most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old and up.

Some women will get breast cancer even without any other risk factors that they know of. Having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease, and not all risk factors have the same effect. Most women have some risk factors, but most women do not get breast cancer. If you have breast cancer risk factors, talk with your doctor about ways you can lower your risk and about screening for breast cancer.

Risk factors you cannot change:

  • Getting older. The risk for breast cancer increases with age; most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.
  • Genetic mutations. Inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited these genetic changes are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Reproductive history. Early menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Having dense breasts. Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram. Women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.
  • Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time. Some non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ are associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer. A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast or ovarian cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.
  • Previous treatment using radiation therapy. Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (for instance, treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
  • Women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was given to some pregnant women in the United States between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, have a higher risk. Women whose mothers took DES while pregnant with them are also at risk.

Risk factors you can change:

  • Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
  • Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy (those that include both estrogen and progesterone) taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives (birth control pills) also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
  • Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
  • Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.

Research suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and changes in other hormones due to night shift working also may increase breast cancer risk.

Who is at high risk for breast cancer?

If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may have a high risk of getting breast cancer. You may also have a high risk for ovarian cancer.

Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk, such as medicines that block or decrease estrogen in your body, or surgery.

Source: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What can I do to reduce my risk of breast cancer?

Many factors over the course of a lifetime can influence your breast cancer risk. You can’t change some factors, such as getting older or your family history, but you can help lower your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health in the following ways—

  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks.
  • If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy  or oral contraceptives  (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.
  • Breastfeed your children, if possible.
  • If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your risk.

Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer, and improve your chances of surviving cancer if it occurs.

Source: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Getting regular exercise is an important way to reduce your risk of breast cancer and many other diseases.
Getting regular exercise is an important way to reduce your risk of breast cancer and many other diseases.

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