Breast Cancer Facts

About Breast Cancer

Hearing statistics about breast cancer, like one in eight women will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime, can sometimes be scary and overwhelming.

But becoming armed with knowledge about the disease, like risk factors, symptoms and the importance of early detection, can go a long way in calming those fears. And for more than 200,000 American women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, this awareness is golden.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate. While some women are genetically predisposed to it, the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.

Indeed, young, healthy women are at risk, but women over the age of 50 and in poor health are at a greater risk of developing breast cancer.

So, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight by eating low-fat foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Restrict alcoholic consumption to one drink per day and exercise 30 minutes daily for at least five days weekly.

Limiting the use of postmenopausal hormones and breastfeeding have also been shown to reduce risk.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Breast cancers found early are the most successfully treated. And that’s why early detection is key to fighting this disease.

Many women discover breast cancer themselves through changes in the look and feel of their breasts. You can become familiar with your breast tissue by examining your breasts each month to learn what is normal for your body.

Some concerning differences you might detect include a change in the size and shape of your breasts, especially if it’s only one side. The skin of the nipple or breast area becomes reddish, flaky or pitted, like the texture of an orange peel. The nipple turns slightly inward, becomes inverted or has a bloody discharge. There is tenderness or pain in any area of the breast or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.

If you detect any of these changes, report them to your doctor.

Breast Self-Examination

Breast self-examinations are one of the best ways to detect breast cancer early. Any woman over the age of 20 should be doing a monthly self-exam to become familiar with her breasts.

The best time for self-examination is after your menstrual cycle, when breasts are less likely to be swollen. If you no longer have a menstrual cycle, choose a day that’s easy to remember each month.

Though there is no right or wrong way to do a self-exam, it should cover the collarbone, under the armpits and nipples.

In addition to self-exams, women between the ages of 20 and 39 years should have a breast exam performed by a doctor every three years. Women over the age of 40, need an annual physician exam.

Routine mammograms are also an important part of early detection and should be done annually for women over the age of 40. Those women who are at high risk, between the ages of 20 and 39, should ask their doctors if they should be getting mammograms sooner.