According to the CDC, breast cancer is among the most prevalent cancers found among American women. Each year, the United States sees 250,000 new cases of breast cancer in women alone. While breast cancer deaths have seen a decline over time, these cancers are still the second most common cause of United States women's cancer deaths overall.
Types Of Breast Cancer
There are two common types of breast cancer: invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. In the first, cancer cells are found to grow outside breast ducts and into other segments of breast tissue. When the cancer cells are invasive, they can also metastasize, or spread, beyond the breasts to other body parts.
In the second, cancer cells are found to spread from lobules to nearby breast tissues. Again, these invasive cells can spread outward into the body. Other types of breast cancer include Paget's disease, mucinous, inflammatory, and medullary breast cancer. DCIS, or ductal carcinoma in situ, is a disease of the breasts that can result in breast cancer. The cancer cells in this condition are only found in the ducts' lining, not having spread beyond to other breast tissues.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
Breast cancers are found, as expected, in the breasts, the nipples, or the areolas, which are the areas around the nipples. Some people are surprised to find that breast tissue carries into the armpits or the tails of the breasts. Symptoms such as lumps can be found anywhere within this breast tissue. These are some but not all possible symptoms of breast cancer.
1. Lumps in the Breast
The discovery of a new mass or a new lump is breast cancer's most common symptom. The type more likely to be cancer is a mass that is painless and hard, with irregular edges. Still, cancers of the breast can be tender, round, or soft, and may even be painful. Because of this, it is very important to have any new lumps, masses, or changes in the breasts checked by a health care professional with experience in catching cancer early. Your doctor can generally see lumps on mammograms a long time before you are able to see or feel them.
Many medical conditions are responsible for causing lumps to form in the breast; cancer is not the only possible culprit. Most breast lumps have been caused by other conditions. The two general common causes of breast lumps include fibrocystic breast condition as well as cysts. Fibrocystic condition is comprised of changes in the breast that are non-cancerous but make the flesh there feel sore, lumpy, and tender. Cysts, on the other hand, are small sacs filled with fluid that are capable of developing within the breast.
2. Changes in the Breast
One of the changes in the breast that can indicate skin cancer is swelling of the lymph nodes beneath the arm or near the collarbone. Because breast tissues cover those areas beneath the arms, spreading into the collarbone, sometimes breast cancer spreads to those lymph nodes in these areas even before the original tumor is large enough for you to feel it. There can also be swelling in all of the breast or only part of it. Even if no distinct lump or mass is present for you to feel, if you notice swelling in your breast, it may be cancer.
A pebbly surface appearing in the skin of the breast can be an indication of cancer. This has been compared to the peel of an orange. This is also described as dimpling in the skin. An indication of cancer may also be an area that is marble-like just beneath the skin and feeling different from other portions of the breasts. The surface indications of breast cancer also include areas on your breast that are flat or indented. These can indicate tumors that cannot yet be seen or felt.
3. Newly Inverted Nipple
The nipple may be the key sign of the appearance of breast cancer. If it is pulled inward, or inverted, a tumor may be the culprit. Check also for such changes as dimpling, burning, itching, or the development of sores. Any or all of these signs can appear when cancer occurs in the right location within the breast. Also, watch for changes in the area around the nipple, called the areola.
4. Unusual Nipple Discharge
While the nipples may naturally have some discharge, particular unusual types of discharge may indicate breast cancer. This discharge could be bloody, clear, or some other color. When the nipples exude an unusual discharge, consulting your doctor is always a good idea.
5. Redness in the Breast's Skin
Another change to watch for in the breast is unusual redness. This is part of remaining aware of your breast's normal states so you can observe changes quickly. When you notice redness that does not simply fade away on its own, consider talking to your medical professional about this change.
When To Consult A Doctor
Any of these changes warrant a visit to the doctor. Any swelling of the breast, whether all of the breast or just part of it, skin dimpling or irritation, pain in the breast or nipple, the nipple turning inward, lumps in the underarm area, discharge of the nipple that is not breast milk, and redness, thickening, or scaliness of the skin of the breast or nipple are all cause for calling your medical professional.
Risk Factors Of Breast Cancer
A risk factor for breast cancer is anything that gives you a higher likelihood of developing cancer in the breasts. Having one or more risk factors is no guarantee that you will develop it, and many women who do develop it have no risk factors apart from merely being women. Factors include, as mentioned, being female, but also include increasing age, a history of breast cancer, a family history of this type of cancer, genes that increase the risk that has been inherited, a history of conditions of the breast, obesity, younger development of periods, older development of menopause, and drinking alcohol. Other factors include having your first child at an older age, never having been pregnant, and postmenopausal hormone therapy.
Preventing Breast Cancer
Daily life changes may assist in the reduction of your risk of this type of cancer. First, consult your doctor about screening. Clinical breast exams, along with mammograms, can help catch cancers early. Grow familiar with your body. Examine your breasts regularly so that you can spot changes. Limit your alcohol use to moderate levels, and boost your exercise patterns, trying to get some exercise in on most days each week. Maintain a healthy weight, and choose a diet that is healthy. Taking these steps can help prevent breast cancer or at least prevent it from running rampant before you are aware of its presence.
Reducing Risk for High-Risk Women
When you have consulted your doctor and discussed the family history and other factors, talk to the doctor about risk reduction options. These include preventative medications that block estrogen. They also encompass preventative surgery. If you are a woman with an extremely high risk of developing cancer, you may opt to remove healthy breasts removed via surgery. Healthy ovaries may also be removed; this reduces the risk of both breast and ovarian cancers.
Breast cancer can be a frightening and imposing condition to face, but understanding the basic facts of this cancer will forewarn and prepare you for spotting the signs quickly and dealing with the problem promptly. Knowing the symptoms is a large part of the battle leading up to a personal fight against breast cancer. Now that you are aware of them, you can familiarize yourself with your own body and be on the watch for those breast cancer symptoms.
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