Understanding Breast Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention

Breast Cancer
13 Oct, 2023

"Breast cancer" is the term that worries most women out there. And it absolutely makes sense because it is a deadly disease. Do you know at present, it has become a widespread disease? In the US, breast cancer accounts for around 30% of all new cancer cases in women.

However, with early detection, breast cancer patients' survival rate has increased to 80%. Over the years, substantial progress has been made in understanding breast cancer and its preventive methods.

What are the Risk Factors Involved?

There are several risk factors involved when it comes to breast cancer in women. Before we move ahead, remember that having one or more of these risks doesn't mean that you will get breast cancer. However, it does mean the probability of developing the disease is high.

  • Age: Breast cancer risk typically rises as women get older. Women who are 50 years old or older are vulnerable to breast cancer.
  • Family History: A substantial family history of breast or ovarian cancer can elevate the risk of developing breast cancer. If your sister, daughter, or mother has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, your own risk of developing breast cancer is high.
  • Genetic Mutations: Specific inherited genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, substantially increase the chance of developing both breast and ovarian cancer.

Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer symptoms can vary extensively and might not be evident in the initial stages. Nevertheless, the most common sign is the feeling of a bump or an extra mass in the breast tissue. This lump is frequently painless, firm, and has irregular borders, although it can also be tender, soft, and rounded.

Additional symptoms to be vigilant for include:

  • Alterations in the breast or tissue size, shape, or appearance.
  • Skin dimpling or puckering over the breast tissue.
  • Nipple inversion or other changes in the nipple area, such as redness or scaling.
  • Swelling or thickening in a portion of the breast.
  • Unexplained enlargement or shrinkage of the breast, mainly if it's unilateral.
  • Nipple discharge that is not breast milk.
  • Discomfort in the breast or nipple region.
  • Skin changes on the breast include redness, scaling, or a resemblance to an orange peel.

However, remember that these symptoms can also be related to less severe conditions. Therefore, while it's crucial not to panic, a healthcare professional should promptly evaluate any alterations in your breast tissue.

Regular self-examinations of your breasts are a valuable tool for early detection of these symptoms. By becoming familiar with your breast tissue's normal texture and appearance, you can identify any unusual changes more promptly and seek medical guidance immediately. Early detection is pivotal in successful treatment and can significantly enhance survival rates.

Remember that each person's body is unique, and what is considered normal for one individual may not be so for another. Trust your instincts—if something seems wrong, it is wise to assess it. Being aware and proactive could ultimately save your life.

What are the Preventive Measures to Combat the Risk of Breast Cancer?

1. Maintain a Healthy Weight

While it's a commonly heard advice, women must focus on maintaining a healthy weight. Women often gain weight during childbirth and forget themselves while raising kids. Even after menopause, women need to keep a check on weight to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

2. Engage in Regular Physical Activity

Regular exercise stands as one of the most beneficial habits for your overall health. It can enhance your mood, boost energy levels, help maintain your weight, and reduce the risk of breast cancer. So, exercise at least 30 minutes daily, but remember that any amount of exercise is better than none.

3. Prioritize a Nutrient-Rich Diet and Limit Alcohol Consumption (Zero Alcohol Is Optimal)

A nutritious diet can contribute to lowering the risk of breast cancer. Having a healthy diet of vegetables and fruits while limiting alcohol intake can significantly help. Even moderate alcohol consumption, while potentially beneficial for heart health in older women, can increase the risk of breast cancer. Opting not to drink alcohol is the healthiest choice, considering the overall risks associated with alcohol consumption.

4. Consider Breastfeeding, If Feasible

Breastfeeding for one year or more, cumulatively for all children, reduces the risk of breast cancer. Additionally, it offers significant health advantages for the child. Seek breastfeeding guidance and support from your pediatrician, hospital, or local health department.

5. Be Cautious with Birth Control Pills, Especially After Age 35 or if You Smoke

Birth control pills have both advantages and disadvantages. The risks are lower for younger women. While using birth control pills, there could be a risk of breast cancer, which tends to disperse quickly after discontinuation. Smoking further amplifies the risk of stroke and heart attack while on the pill. Nevertheless, long-term use can offer essential benefits, such as reducing the risk of ovarian, colon, and uterine cancers and preventing unwanted pregnancies. Weighing the risks and benefits, avoiding birth control pills can reduce breast cancer risk, especially if you have significant concerns.

6. Exercise Caution with Hormone Therapy for Menopause

Using hormone therapy for menopause as a long-term preventive measure for chronic diseases is not recommended. Studies indicate a mixed effect on health, with an increased risk of specific conditions and a decreased risk of others. Both estrogen-only hormones and estrogen-plus-progestin hormones can elevate the risk of breast cancer.

If menopausal hormone therapy is considered, it should be used for the shortest duration possible. Consult your doctor for a thorough discussion of the risks and benefits associated with menopausal hormone therapy.

If you are looking for reliable primary care services, CVMedPro has your back. Our extensive network of healthcare providers enables you to choose the right professional. Schedule an appointment today!

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