Breast cancer precautions you need to know!

October 24, 2014

Photo & Information credit:P&G

Know the signs:

Most people  (Men & Women) who have breast cancer symptoms and signs will initially notice only one or two, and the presence of these symptoms and signs do not automatically mean that you have breast cancer. By performing monthly breast self-exams, you will be able to more easily identify any changes in your breast. Be sure to talk to your healthcare professional if you notice anything unusual.

Changes in how the Breast or Nipple Feels:
  • Nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area
  • A change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast (some describe this as similar to an orange peel’s texture)
  • A lump in the breast
  • It’s important to remember that all lumps should be investigated by a healthcare professional, but not all lumps are cancerous.)
Changes in the Breast or Nipple Appearance:
  • Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling anywhere on the breast
  • Unexplained swelling of the breast (especially if on one side only)
  • Unexplained shrinkage of the breast (especially if on one side only)
  • Recent asymmetry of the breasts (Although it is common for women to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other, if the onset of asymmetry is recent, it should be checked.)
  • Slightly turned inward or inverted nipple
  • Skin of the breast, areola or nipple that becomes scaly, red or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange
  • Any Nipple Discharge — Particularly Clear or Bloody Discharge
  • It is also important to note that a milky discharge that is present when a woman is not breastfeeding should be checked by her doctor, although it is not linked with breast cancer.

When Should I Worry?
  • Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer, but any breast cancer symptom you notice should be investigated as soon as it is discovered. If you have any of these symptoms, tell your healthcare provider so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated.

What if I Don’t Have Any Symptoms?
  • Although there’s no need to worry, regular screenings are always important. Your doctor can check for breast cancer before you have any noticeable symptoms. During your office visit, your doctor will ask about your personal and family medical history and perform a physical examination. In addition, your doctor may order one or more imaging tests, such as a mammogram.

14 Known Breast Cancer Risk Factors

It could be genetic or environmental — or as in most cases, a combination of the two. Breast cancer is not contagious and is not caused by wearing underwire bras, implants, deodorants, antiperspirants, mammograms, caffeine, plastic food serving items, microwaves or cell phones, as myths often suggest.

While most patients will never know exactly what caused their cancer, there are certain established risk factors that are associated with breast cancer.

Genetic Factors
  1. Gender: Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.
  2. Age: Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
  3. Race: Breast cancer is diagnosed more often in Caucasian women than women of other races.
  4. Family History and Genetic Factors: If your mother, sister, father or child has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the future. Your risk increases if your relative was diagnosed before the age of 50.
  5. Personal Health History: If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the other breast in the future. Also, your risk increases if abnormal breast cells — atypical hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ LCIS or ductal carcinoma in situ DCIS] — have been detected before .
  6. Menstrual and Reproductive History: Early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55), having your first child at an older age, or never having given birth can also increase your risk for breast cancer
  7. Certain Genome Changes: Mutations in certain genes can increase your risk for breast cancer. This is determined through a genetic test, which you may consider taking if you have a family history of breast cancer. Individuals with these gene mutations can pass the gene mutation onto their children.
  8. Dense Breast Tissue: Having dense breast tissue can increase your risk for breast cancer and make lumps harder to detect. Several states have passed laws requiring physicians to disclose to women if their mammogram indicates that they have dense breasts so that they are aware of this risk. Be sure to ask your physician if you have dense breasts and what the implications of having dense breasts are.
Environmental and Lifestyle Risk Factors
  1. Lack of Physical Activity: A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  2. Poor Diet: A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  3. Being Overweight or Obese: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for breast cancer. Your risk is increased if you have already gone through menopause.
  4. Drinking Alcohol: Frequent consumption of alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk.
  5. Radiation to the Chest: Having radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  6. Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Taking combined hormone replacement therapy, as prescribed for menopause, can increase your risk for breast cancer and increases the risk that the cancer will be detected at a more advanced stage.

A Step-by-step Guide to Early Detection

While mammograms can help you detect cancer before you can feel a lump, breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel so you can alert your healthcare professional if there are any changes.

Here are three ways to perform a self-exam.

1. In the Shower
Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area.

Check both breasts each month for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Note any changes and get evaluated by your healthcare provider.

2. In Front of a Mirror
Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead. Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, dimpling of the skin or changes in the nipples.

Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match — few women's breasts do — and look for any dimpling, puckering or changes particularly on one side.

3. Lying Down
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast in light then medium then firm pressure in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Squeeze the nipple and check for discharge and lumps.

Repeat these steps for your left breast.

Are Breast Self-exams Enough?

Mammograms can detect tumors before they can be felt, so screening is key for early detection. When combined with regular medical care and appropriate guideline-recommended mammography, frequent breast self-exams can help women know what is normal for them so they can report any changes to their healthcare provider.

If you find a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor, but don't panic — eight out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. For additional peace of mind, call your doctor whenever you have concerns.

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