Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. Raising awareness about breast cancer has been in the attention of many experts in the past few years because of the tragic effects that this disease causes. As in the case of many other types of cancer, the exact cause of developing breast cancer is unknown at the moment. Even so, there are multiple risk factors that can increase the chance of a person to develop cancer. Different female hormones and older age can be found among these risk factors. Studies have shown that breast cancer is more common in women over 50 years of age. The numbers increase from 1 in 250 women aged 30-40 to 1 in 70 women aged 50.
The apparition of breast cancer can be influenced by numerous factors. Some of the factors that increase the chances of developing breast cancer include:
- Personal breast cancer history.
If a patient previously suffered from breast cancer, the chances of developing cancer again are higher. Cancer can reoccur in the same area (breasts) or other areas of the body, such as lungs, liver, brain or even bones.
- Family medical history.
A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer is increased if relatives also suffered from cancer. If the mother, sister, daughter or other close relatives of a person have a history of breast cancer, the person might be prone to encountering breast cancer at a certain point in her life. Inheriting genetic mutations that are related to breast cancer (BRCA1 & BRCA2) is another risk factor. The mutations are also responsible for a higher risk of colon and ovarian cancer.
- Genetic mutations – BRCA1 & BRCA2.
BRCA1 & BRCA2 are more common in some ethnic groups, like Ashkenazi Jews. In order to determine whether one person has genetic mutations or not, genetic tests must be run. These tests give people information about their probability of developing cancer in the future. The tests either confirm or rule out the presence of the BRCA1 & BRCA2 mutations, thus letting the person know what measures should be adopted next. If the presence of the genes is confirmed, physicians can recommend different ways of postponing or preventing the onset of cancer completely.
Women whose breasts have been exposed to significant amounts of radiation at a young age face an increased risk of developing cancer. Women who were previously treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma are in this situation. The younger a woman is when undergoing radiotherapy, the higher the risk of developing breast cancer in the future is.
The natural aging process increases the risk, as well as the lifestyle choices that a person makes. Weight gain, the use of hormonal treatments, smoking, fat-rich diets, consuming alcohol and other similar behaviors increases the risk of developing breast cancer at some point during one’s life. If combined, the risk is increased visibly.
Considering that lifestyle plays an important role in leading a healthy, cancer-free life, a few changes might be required in this sense. The lifestyle changes that may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer are:
- Healthy diets.
Diet has been studied repeatedly as a risk factor for breast cancer. Modifying the diet could prevent or at least postpone the installation of breast cancer. Following a low-fat diet is the main recommendation of specialists. People who are already at risk of developing cancer should stay away from alcohol or tobacco.
- Physical activity.
Weight gain after the age of 50 can increase the risk of breast cancer as well. Living an active life, backed up by a healthy diet should prevent the installation of this disease. Such methods are recommended in the case of any other type of cancer as well.
- Avoid post-menopausal hormones.
Women who choose to follow a post-menopausal hormonal treatment are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. It is recommended not to use such treatments unless they are mandatory for the well-being of the patient.
Prevention is closely related to detecting breast cancer in the early stages and undergoing more screening tests if suspicions are brought to the table. The mandatory screening options for breast cancer are:
- Self-examination (BSE).
This is a simple procedure used to detect mammary nodules that can be done by any woman in the comfort of her home. Of course, the BSE method doesn’t replace the clinical breast examination which remains mandatory. Self-examination helps women recognize whether there is any abnormality in the breast tissue. Self-examinations should be done once a month by young women only. Older women need to have their breasts examined by a specialist (CBE).
- Clinical breast examinations (CBE).
Clinical breast examinations must be done by a medic. They involve examining the breast and axilla for potential nodules or abnormal formations. The age of a person determines how often the CBE procedure should be done. For women aged 20-30, the recommended frequency is one CBE every other year. After the age of 30, CBEs should be done every year. Depending on how prone a person is to developing cancer, a couple of CBEs per year might be required. The specialists at EMU Health medical clinic recommend women to follow this procedure whenever they notice something unnatural, besides the annual examination.
If there is any suspicion of cancer, the next screening test is mammography. This is mammary radiograph that can detect tumors which are too small to be felt during palpation. Specialists might require repeating the mammography in the case of women who are at high risk of developing affection. The usefulness of this procedure is also influenced by the breast tissue type (e.g. dense breast tissue).
In some cases, mammography doesn’t eliminate the suspicion regarding breast cancer. This is where MRIs intervene. Breast MRIs can detect tumors in a more sensitive manner than mammography.
- Breast ultrasound.
Breast ultrasounds are recommended when the clinical examination or mammogram ends up detecting one or more breast nodules. By running an ultrasound, doctors are able to differentiate solid nodules from fluid-filled nodules.
To learn more about breast cancer and treatment options, use the contact details listed below.
83-40 Woodhaven Blvd, Glendale, NY 11385