October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In 1985, “National Breast Cancer Awareness Month” was created as a collaborative effort between the American Academy of Family Physicians, AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation, CancerCare, Inc., and a variety of other sponsors to raise awareness and gain funding for research for a cure.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts.
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it’s far more common in women.
Doctors know that breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass. Cells may spread (metastasize) through your breast to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.
Researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that may increase your risk of breast cancer. But it’s not clear why some people who have no risk factors develop cancer, yet other people with risk factors never do. It’s likely that breast cancer is caused by a complex interaction of your genetic makeup and your environment.
What Are The 8 Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer?
It is important to remember that both men and women can get breast cancer. It is important that you self check yourself frequently. There are 8 signs that you should be aware of when examining your breast.
- Lump, hard knot or thickening of the breast tissue.
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the skin.
- Change in the size or shape of the breast.
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin.
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple.
- Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast.
- Nipple discharge that starts suddenly.
- New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away.
You should make an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation is you have any of these signs. Even if your most recent mammogram was normal it is highly recommended that you see your physician as soon as possible.
Inherited Breast Cancer
Doctors estimate that about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family.
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or other cancers, your doctor may recommend a blood test to help identify specific mutations in BRCA or other genes that are being passed through your family.
Consider asking your doctor for a referral to a genetic counselor, who can review your family health history. A genetic counselor can also discuss the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing to assist you with shared decision-making.
For more information check out the Mayo Clinic resources on breast cancer.