Understanding Breast Cancer

Understanding Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. Breast cancer can spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is said to have metastasized.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
No one knows the exact cause (s ) of breast cancer. What is known is that breast cancer is always caused by damage to a cell’s DNA. Did you know that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime?
What are the Known Risk Factors of Breast Cancer?
Women with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop breast cancer. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of getting a disease. Some of the risk factors can be avoided while others cannot be avoided. Having a risk factor does not mean that a woman will get breast cancer. Many women who have risk factors never develop breast cancer.
Risk Factors You Cannot Change or Avoid:
• 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.
• Family history of breast cancer. A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast 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 (like for treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
Risk Factors You Can Change or Avoid:
Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer. Regular physical activity is important for good health, and it’s especially important if you’re trying to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight. To maintain your weight: Work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, 30 minutes a day for 5 days.
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. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses.
Staying in control of your weight contributes to good health now and as you age.
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. If you are taking, or have been told to take hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.

Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk. Breastfeeding can help lower a mother’s risk of:
• High blood pressure
• Type 2 diabetes
• Ovarian cancer
• Breast cancer
• Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.

Research also 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
Can Breast Cancer Be Prevented?
NO, breast cancer cannot be prevented, but it can be detected early when it is easier to treat.
How Can Breast Cancer Be Detected Early?
There are 3 Steps to Early Detection that can increase the chance of finding breast cancer before it spreads.
1. Mammogram
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.

Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.

How often should a woman go for mammogram?

The American Cancer Society Recommends:

Women aged 40 to 44 years should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so.
Women aged 45 to 54 years should get mammograms every year.
Women aged 55 years and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.
Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

Clinical Breast Exam:
A clinical breast exam is an examination by a doctor or nurse, who uses his or her hands to feel for lumps or other changes.
Breast Self-Awareness
Being familiar with how your breasts look and feel can help you notice symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size that may be of concern. These could include changes found during a breast self-exam. Report any changes that you notice to your doctor or health care provider.
Having a clinical breast exam or doing a breast self-exam has not been found to lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.
What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Breast Cancer?
Have You Noticed Changes In Your Breasts Recently?
Many breast cancer symptoms are invisible and not noticeable without a professional screening, but some symptoms can be caught early just by being proactive about your breast health.
Every person should know the symptoms and signs of breast cancer, and any time an abnormality is discovered, it should be investigated by a healthcare professional.
By performing monthly breast self-exams, you will be able to more easily identify any changes in your breast.
A Change In How The Breast Or Nipple Feels: a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area
A Change In The Breast Or Nipple Appearance: Any unexplained change in the size, shape & skin of the breast. Nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted
Any Nipple Discharge: Particularly Clear Discharge Or Bloody Discharge

How Is Breast Cancer Treated?

Breast cancer is treated in several ways. It depends on the kind of breast cancer and how far it has spread.
• Surgery. An operation where doctors cut out cancer tissue.
• Chemotherapy. Using special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer cells. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.
• Hormonal therapy. Blocks cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
• Biological therapy. Works with your body’s immune system to help it fight cancer cells or to control side effects from other cancer treatments.
• Radiation therapy. Using high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer cells.