Did you know breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in women?
(Skin cancer is #1, so load up on the sunscreen.)
That’s right: over 200,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Women make up the majority of diagnoses but men are not immune.
Over the past few years, mortality rates from the disease have steadily declined.
Breast cancer awareness.
When people have a good understanding of breast cancer symptoms, they can catch the disease early.
Detecting and treating the cancer as soon as possible are crucial for surviving the disease.
Breast cancer awareness is really the best defense for avoiding the risk factors (when possible) and treating the disease before it progresses.
What is breast cancer and what are the risk factors?
What is breast cancer exactly and what causes it?
Breast cancer occurs when cells in breast tissue develop abnormally and at a faster rate than normal which causes lumps or tumors to develop.
These abnormal cells typically begin growing in the milk ducts or glandular tissue before spreading to lymph nodes or different parts of the body.
There isn’t any one answer for what causes breast cancer. Researchers believe the disease is caused by a combination of hormonal, hereditary, and environmental factors.
Breast cancer risk factors
Many people diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any family history associated with the disease or meet any of the common risk factors.
This doesn’t mean you should let your health go and leave it completely up to chance. Make sure you avoid as many risk factors as possible.
Certain risk factors you may not be able to control. Your best line of defense in this situation is to conduct frequent self-exams and get frequent check-ups from your doctor.
- Family history. Research has identified a breast cancer gene responsible for triggering the disease. However, some women may carry the gene without ever developing cancer. If your mother, sisters, or aunts have received a diagnosis, keep an eye on your own breast health.
- Menstrual cycles begin at a young age. Women who began their period before reaching their teens have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Obesity and excess weight increases your cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol. There is a direct link between frequently alcohol consumption and developing breast cancer.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Women who treat menopause symptoms with HRT are more likely to develop cancer.
- You don’t have kids and don’t want any. If you never become pregnant, this increases your risk.
- Exposure to radiation increases your risk of developing breast cancer.
- You started menopause later than average. Although this can seem like a marker of good and youthful health, beginning menopause at an older age increases your cancer risk.
Breast cancer symptoms everyone needs to know
As mentioned above, breast cancer awareness is key to identifying the disease early before it can spread.
In order to do that, you need to be aware of the breast cancer symptoms and get frequent checkups from your doctor if you fit several risk factors.
- A lump that feels similar to a stone within another healthy breast tissue.
- Any changes in breast size or shape.
- Any changes in breast skin such as dimpling, redness, or pitting.
- Nipple changes including a newly inverted nipple or changes in the skin such as peeling, crusting, or flaking.
- Nipple discharge including pus or blood.
Reduce your risk
You can’t change genetics, but you can take a proactive approach to your health in other ways to reduce the environmental risk factors.
- Conduct frequent self-exams. Get to know your breasts and be aware of changes.
- Don’t drink alcohol. As little as three drinks per week can increase your risk for breast cancer for 15% and an additional 10% for each drink after that.
- Stay active. Commit to at least 30 minutes a day of exercise – even low impact is better than nothing.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Consuming healthy fats from olive oil and fish can reduce your risk. Consider giving the Mediterranean diet a shot.
- Limit HRT. Avoid taking estrogen and progesterone as much as possible. If you absolutely must take them to limit the symptoms of menopause, stick with the lowest dose and wean yourself off them as soon as possible.
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