You might have seen many people wearing breast cancer ribbon pins these days. The reason behind this is that October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is a good time to get some awareness about this fatal disease.
Breast cancer is the development of abnormal, rapidly growing cells within the breast tissue. These cells can emerge in the milk ducts (ductal carcinoma), in the breast lobules or milk-producing tissue (lobular carcinoma), or block the lymph vessels in the skin (inflammatory breast cancer.)
More than 80% of all invasive breast cancers are caused by Invasive ductal carcinoma. Invasive lobular carcinoma makes up about 10% of cases, and inflammatory breast cancer, the rarest form, accounts for about 1 – 3% of cases. Non-invasive carcinomas (termed carcinomas “in situ”) are considered precancerous situations that should be closely monitored.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
These factors fall into two categories: inherent (unchangeable) and lifestyle (changeable.) Factors that cannot be changed include: age (the risk goes up as women get older), family and/or personal history of breast cancer, genetic risk factors, race (white women have the highest risk), radiation exposure at a young age, an early menstrual period (before age 12), or late menopause (after age 55.)
Lifestyle factors that increase breast cancer risk include extended use of birth control pills (4+ years), having children after age 30, postmenopausal hormone therapy, smoking, excessive drinking, and/or being overweight.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Changes in the appearance and feel of the breast can indicate breast cancer. Such changes include a lump or thickening in the breast tissue or in the underarm, distortion or indentation of the nipple, or reddening/irritation of the breast skin. Other breast changes include nipple discharge (bloody or clear fluid), pain, or warm/hot skin.
Although most breast lumps are not cancerous, it is still important to see a doctor if a lump, or any of the above-mentioned symptoms, are discovered.
United States Breast Cancer Statistics
The facts show the significance of breast cancer awareness. Breast cancer is the second most common form of carcinoma among women in the U.S., after skin cancer, and it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women (after lung cancer.)
The risk of developing invasive breast cancer in a woman’s lifetime is 1 in 8. Dying from it happens to 1 in 35 women. Approximately 180,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in the next year, and approximately 41,700 will die from it this year.