The main symptoms, risks, and effects of breast cancer.
Every year since 1985, October 1st marks the beginning of “Pinktober”, a month dedicated to raising awareness about breast cancer. Since then, it has become more common to see campaigns raising money for institutions that combat breast cancer, as well as increased media coverage on the issue, especially with the rise of social media. Even so, breast cancer remains the second most common kind of cancer, experiencing no considerable drop in incidence over the last 15 years.
What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer forms when cells begin to multiply at an accelerated rate, and stop dying, which creates small lumps of cells known as tumors. Cancer is when these tumors have the ability to spread across the body, through the bloodstream a process known as metastases. When a cancer forms inside the breast it is called breast cancer. In the USA alone, breast cancer claims around 43,000 lives yearly, 5,000 more than traffic accidents in the same time, and twice as much as gun violence. The incidence for breast cancer is also extremely high, with over 35,000,000 cases registered each year.
Breast cancer usually forms in either the ducts that carry milk to the nipple, known as ductal cancers, or in the glands that produce milk, known as lobular cancers. It can also form in the tissues of the breast, but these are considered lymphomas or sarcomas, and don’t get grouped in with breast cancer.
Breast cancer can be identified as a small lump that develops within the breast, that is usually irregular in shape, however, it can form in a variety of shapes and sizes. Other symptoms include: swelling of the breast, breast or nipple pain, changes in appearance and texture of the skin, blood and other fluids coming out of the nipple (other than milk) and swelling of the lymph nodes. If you experience any of these symptoms you should immediately contact a health professional.
Who is at Greater Risk?
There are many factors that contribute to increased risk of developing breast cancer; most of them are immutable, meaning that there isn’t anything anyone can do to change them. These include age (most cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women over the age of 50), a history of breast cancer in your family, genetic mutations, early menstrual periods (before the age of 12) and menopause after the age of 55. Other factors include having undergone radiation therapy for other cancers, and having taken diethylstilbestrol (a drug used from 1940 to 1971 to prevent complications during pregnancy such as miscarriages) or having a mother who took diethylstilbestrol while pregnant.
Breast Cancer in Men
Contrary to popular belief men can also develop breast cancer, however they develop it at much lower rates. If you are a man, and experience any symptoms, you should seek professional help.
To prevent breast cancer, women should take regular mammograms and screenings, since catching the cancer early is the best way to fight it. Other ways of diminishing your chances of contracting breast cancer are being physically active, and decreasing your alcohol consumption.