A Guide to Breast Cancer Awareness

Written by Michele Wheat

It is estimated that one out of every eight women will develop an invasive form of breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. It is also interesting to note that approximately 2,350 men were diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States in 2015. Breast cancer is a disease that does not care about a person's gender, age, or race. It is a disease that strikes unexpectedly and must be dealt with quickly. Thanks to a tremendous amount of research over the past few years, the number of breast cancer survivors is growing each year. The best way to fight breast cancer is to be aware of the symptoms, the treatments, and the many ways to help prevent this deadly disease.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of breast cancer is an unexpected lump in the breast, which can occur in men or women. But there are other symptoms that may appear before, after, or along with the discovery of a lump. The breast area will become tender, and it can be painful to the touch. The armpit near where the lump was discovered may start swelling, and it will also be painful to the touch. The breast itself may change in appearance, such as a flattening of the breast or a change in the breast's curvature. Another common symptom is an unexpected clear discharge that usually comes from the nipple of the affected breast.

Diagnosis and Classification

The mammogram is the first phase of diagnosing breast cancer, and it is quickly followed by a clinical breast exam by a licensed physician. It should be noted that mammograms and clinical breast exams should be regular parts of a woman's health regimen every year. More and more cases of breast cancer are detected early because women take part in these regular tests. As a matter of clarification, doctors will also use tests such as an MRI, X-ray, or ultrasound and a biopsy to confirm the presence of a cancerous node. The most common classifications for breast cancer are invasive ductal and invasive lobular types. These are determined after examining the biopsies, but they are treated in similar manners.

Risk Factors

Not everyone will wear a breast cancer wristband, but there are groups that are at greater risk than others. The highest-risk group is women ages 55 and older. While breast cancer can strike anyone of any age, nearly two-thirds of all cases of invasive breast cancer are found in this group. It is also estimated that anywhere from five to ten percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary, with the risk in some families being as high as 80 percent. Other conditions besides genetics that increase the risk of breast cancer include drinking too much alcohol, obesity after menopause, and an inactive lifestyle.

How to Prevent Breast Cancer

The first key to preventing breast cancer is to live a healthy lifestyle. You need to eliminate smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol in excess, and you need to be active each and every day. While being healthy does not guarantee that you will avoid breast cancer, it does give your body an excellent chance at being able to fight the disease if it does occur. Women who have children can lower their risk of breast cancer by breastfeeding their children. You can also decrease your chances of getting breast cancer by limiting your exposure to sources of radiation, such as the sun, and staying away from areas with large amounts of air and water pollution. Women should also get annual breast exams to give doctors a chance to diagnose the condition early so that it can be successfully treated.

Treatment Options

Treatment for breast cancer is something that should be determined by the patient and their doctor. Some of the more common options include surgical removal of the tumor or the entire breast, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy with various medications. Estrogen is a hormone that can enhance the growth of breast cancer; one of the treatments used successfully is a hormone treatment that limits the amount of estrogen that is found in the body. Another popular treatment is the use of medication to get the body's immune system to target the cancer and destroy it. All of these options are available to breast cancer patients, and they should all be considered by the patient and their doctor as viable methods of treatment.

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