Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Symptoms of Breast Cancer: Health Remedies (AWHW)
healthBreast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. There are numerous types of breast cancer, but cancer that begins in the milk ducts (ductal carcinoma) is the most common type. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States.
Breast cancer most often begins with cells in the milk-producing ducts. Doctors call this type of breast cancer invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer may also begin in the milk glands known as lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) within the breast.
Researchers have identified things that can 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.
Inherited breast cancer
Doctors estimate that only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family. A number of inherited defective genes that can increase the likelihood of breast cancer have been identified. The most common are breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), both of which increase the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or other cancers, blood tests may help identify defective 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 with you. It’s important to remember that the genetic tests help to identify a high-risk individual or family, but they don’t definitively predict who will or will not get breast cancer.
A risk factor is anything that makes it more likely you’ll get a particular disease. But having one or even several risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop cancer — many women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors other than simply being women.
Factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:
Being female. Women are much more likely than men are to develop breast cancer. Increasing age. Your risk of breast cancer increases as you age. Women older than 55 have a greater risk than do younger women.
A personal history of breast cancer. If you’ve had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
A family history of breast cancer. If you have a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer, you have a greater chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Still, the majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
Inherited genes that increase cancer risk. Certain gene mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer can be passed from parents to children. The most common gene mutations are referred to as BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes can greatly increase your risk of breast cancer and other cancers, but they don’t make cancer inevitable.
Radiation exposure. If you received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, you’re more likely to develop breast cancer later in life.
Obesity. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of breast cancer because fat tissue produces estrogen that may help fuel certain cancers.
Beginning your period at a younger age. Beginning your period before age 12 increases your risk of breast cancer.
Beginning menopause at an older age. If you began menopause after age 55, you’re more likely to develop breast cancer.
Having your first child at an older age. Women who give birth to their first child after age 35 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
Postmenopausal hormone therapy. Women who take hormone therapy medications that combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer.
Drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer. Experts recommend no more than one alcoholic beverage a day for women.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include:
A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
Bloody discharge from the nipple
Change in the size or shape of a breast
Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
Peeling, scaling or flaking of the nipple or breast skin
Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange
When to see a doctor
Although the majority of breast changes don’t turn out to be cancer, make an appointment to see your doctor if you find a lump or other change in your breast. Even if you’ve just had a mammogram with normal results, it’s still important to have your doctor evaluate any changes.
Most women check for lumps – but not other symptoms
Many women are confused about the signs of breast cancer, a survey suggests.
The charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer found a quarter of women polled thought wrongly that having a persistent cough was a sign of breast cancer.
Some 81% wrongly believed a mole on the breast could be a symptom, while a third incorrectly linked an extra nipple to the disease.
The charity is calling on GPs to help clear up the confusion and improve the number of cases that are caught early.
The survey of 1,190 women aged over 50 found 87% of respondents carry out regular checks for breast lumps
Only 10% look for inversion of the nipple
Only 14% look for changes in the skin on the breasts
Only 16% check for discharge from the nipple
Only 22% look for changes in the appearance of the nipple
Only 23% looked for changes in the size or shape of the breast
Just over half looked for lumps in the armpit
However, knowledge of the full range of symptoms to look out for remains poor.
The survey also found that half of women aged 70 and over were unaware they can continue to get free breast screening by making their own appointments through their GP, or local breast screening unit.
The vast majority (88%) of women in this group reported that since turning 70 their GP or surgery had not talked to them about continuing to make their own breast screening appointments.
Breast cancer risk continues to increase the older a woman gets and breast screening can pick up cancer before it can be seen or felt by hand.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “It’s clear that despite breast cancer now being the most common cancer in the UK, women remain extremely confused about what they should be looking out for – with their focus still very much on feeling for breast lumps.
“At the same time there appears to be misunderstanding amongst women aged 70 and over about whether they should continue breast screening.
“We would like to see more GP surgeries making patients in this age group aware that they can, and should, make their own regular breast screening appointments
Breakthrough, which has launched a campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer, is offering GP surgeries a poster containing information for patients on how to check for the disease.
The awareness campaign is supported by a raft of celebrities, including actress Imelda Staunton, who said: “Get to know what your breasts look and feel like usually and go to your doctor if you find anything unusual or are worried.
“It is important to remember that the earlier breast cancer is detected and treated the better the chances of survival.