Breast Cancer Symptoms
There are various symptoms of breast cancer. Some women have no symptoms at all. Some of these symptoms include:
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
- Skin changes: redness, thickening, dimpling
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- A hardened lump in the breast or underarm area.
- Breast pain
Breast Cancer Risk Factors and Ways to Lower Risks
Risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Increasing age. The majority of breast cancers are found in women over the age of 50
- Female sex
- Personal and family history of breast cancer
- Poor access to health care for preventative screening
- Alcohol use
- Exposure to ionizing radiation
Although these are noted risk factors, most women in whom invasive breast cancer is diagnosed do not have identifiable risk factors.
On a positive note, there are factors associated with decreased breast cancer risk and they include breastfeeding, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a low fat diet, exercising and engaging in physical activity, decreasing/minimizing your alcohol consumption, and avoiding smoking.
It has been proven that early detection improves outcomes. 5-year breast cancer survival rates by SEER are listed below:
Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations
Over the past several years, many organizations have steered away from recommending breast self exams. A more updated recommendation is breast awareness. Research has shown that monthly breast self exams have not improved the detection of breast cancer. However, breast awareness is helpful because it encourages you to be overall familiar with your breasts and to know what your normal is. That way, noticeable changes can be quickly visualized and you can tell your doctor.
The goal of screening for breast cancer is to detect early disease in asymptomatic patients in order to prevent adverse outcomes, improve survival, and avoid the need for more intensive treatments. The American College of OBGYNS and National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend offering mammograms beginning at age 40 and eerie 1-2 years following this. Also, Women at average risk of breast cancer should continue screening mammography until at least age 75 years.