Every October, the nation turns pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the most common form of non-skin cancer among women in the United States, but it can impact anyone with breast tissue.
People of all genders have breast tissue, but it’s the presence of estrogen during puberty that prompts this tissue to grow in females. There are different structures found in all breasts, and cancer of this area can begin growing in any of these parts.
The most common types of breast cancer include ductal and lobular.
Ductal breast cancer begins forming in the ducts of the tissue where milk travels, and lobular breast cancer begins in the glands that produce milk. If not detected early, these cancers can spread to other body parts through blood or the lymph system.
The CDC lists three of the most prevalent factors that increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer, including:
- Being a woman.
- Being older in age (50+).
- Having a BRACA gene that is much more likely to mutate into breast cancer.
Other risk factors include:
- Having a family history of breast cancer.
- Radiation treatment for other forms of cancer.
- Having dense breast tissue.
Symptoms & Detection
Symptoms vary depending on the person and type of cancer; some individuals show no symptoms. Common signs of breast cancer include:
- New lump in the breast or armpit.
- Thickening or swelling 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.
If you experience any of these symptoms, seeing a medical provider is important. These may indicate breast cancer but can also be a sign of something else going on.
Your overall health can help to reduce your risk of developing cancer and improve your chances of surviving if you do develop cancer. Breast cancer screenings, also known as mammograms, are a preventative measure that can help detect cancer early.
Some other steps you can take to reduce your risk of breast cancer include:
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Be physically active.
- Choose not to drink alcohol or drink in moderation.
- If you are taking hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), talk to your doctor about the risk, especially if you have a family history of breast cancer.
- If you have a family history of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, talk to your doctor about ways to lower your risk.
If you have any symptoms or think you are at increased risk of breast cancer, talk to a medical provider about your concerns and take control of your health today!