In America, the risk of the average woman developing breast cancer is 13% in her lifetime. It is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women (American Cancer Society, 2019). While breast cancer does affect men, the impact of breast cancer on women cannot be understated. As part of the HealthLynked mission to bring medical care, resources, and education to all, read on for what you need to know as you elevate your breast cancer awareness.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Quite simply, cancer is a disease in which cells begin to grow out of control. Normal cells divide, then die when they become damaged or grow old (American Cancer Society, 2015). Cancer cells continue to divide, uncontrollably encroaching on the healthy cells around them. The two most common breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma (American Cancer Society, 2019).
When cancer occurs in the breast, it most often begins in the lactiferous ducts, or “milk ducts,” tubes that carry milk from the glandular tissue to the nipple. These are known as ductal cancers or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), usually considered the earliest forms of breast cancer (Mayo Clinic, 2020).
Lobular carcinoma, or lobular breast cancer, is the second-most common type beginning in the glands (lobules) that produce milk. When cancer cells spread from their origin point to the lymph nodes or other areas, it’s known as invasive breast cancer (Mayo Clinic, 2020). The American Cancer Society reports that over 180,000 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancers, 10% of those originating as lobular carcinomas (“Breast Cancer Facts & Figures,” 2019).
Signs & Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer includes a variety of symptoms with patients experiencing, all, some, or none. Contact your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- Lumps in the breast or armpit that were not present before.
- Thickening or swelling in the breast.
- Scaly skin, flaking, or redness, especially around nipple.
- Irritation or dimpling of the skin.
- Retraction of the nipple.
- Nipple discharges.
- Change in breast size or shape.
- Breast or nipple pain.
It’s important to note that many signs and symptoms of breast cancer are also symptoms of cysts, fibrocystic, or other medical conditions affecting the breast. These can also cause breasts to become lumpy, uneven, or tender (CDC, 2020). If you have any abnormal symptoms, make an appointment through HealthLynked to see your medical provider.
Screening for Breast Cancer
Because symptoms can be unpredictable, screening is the best method for detection and prevention. The American Cancer Society recommends that average-risk women begin annual screenings between 40-44 years old and should continue throughout their lifetime as long as they are in good health and have a life expectancy of ten years or more (“Breast Cancer Facts & Figures,” 2019).
Mammograms are low-dose x-rays of breast tissue. They allow physicians to detect breast cancers, tumors, and cysts. Mammogram screenings in clinical trials report reduced the mortality rates by 20% (“Breast Cancer Facts & Figures,” 2019). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a radiological procedure using magnetic fields, gradients, and radio waves to make an internal image of the body. MRI screenings are recommended in addition to an annual mammogram for women with increased risk of breast cancer beginning at 30 (“Breast Cancer Facts & Figures,” 2019).
Women at increased risk can include those with denser breast tissue, women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancers, and other markers. Studies from the American Cancer Society reveal MRIs are often underutilized by women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is more than 15% (“Breast Cancer Facts & Figures,” 2019).
Preventive measures such as screenings are the first line of defense against breast cancer. If you are experiencing any abnormal systems or would like to know about your risk factors, make an appointment with your provider through HealthLynked today.
“Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2019-2020.” American Cancer Society, 2019.
“Invasive Lobular Carcinoma.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 23 May 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/invasive-lobular-carcinoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20373973.
“What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Sept. 2020, www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/symptoms.htm.
“What Is Breast Cancer?: Breast Cancer Definition.” American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society, 18 Sept. 2019, www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/what-is-breast-cancer.html.
“What Is Cancer?” American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society, 15 Dec. 2015, www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-basics/what-is-cancer.html.