Understanding Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer: The Basics

It’s the second most common type of cancer women are diagnosed with in the United States. Every year, 211,000 women learn they have the disease, while 1,700 men in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease as well. While men are affected, this disease is more commonly diagnosed in women.

Breast cancer begins its attack on the tissues of the breast, typically the ducts and lobules. The ducts are the tubes that carry milk to the nipple, and the lobules are the glands that make milk. (There are multiple types of breast cancer that women and men should be aware of. CLICK HERE to learn more about the different types, and what you should look for.)

While the specific reasons are unknown in the causes of breast cancer, years of research suggests genetics play an important role in the diagnosis and prevention.

Scientists continue to study breast cancer to find out more about its causes. And, despite an absent cure-all for the disease, many organizations and groups continue their relentless battle to fight the deadly disease, year after year.

Are You at Risk?

The key to prevention and early detection is addressing any symptoms and risk factors that you’re aware of. Once you know the risk factors exist, you can begin to address them with your care taker and doctor.

The National Cancer Institute highlights the most common risk factors for breast cancer; they include:

• Older age.
• Menstruating at an early age.
• Older age at first birth or never having given birth.
• A personal history of breast cancer or benign (non-cancer) breast disease.
• A mother or sister with breast cancer.
• Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest.
• Breast tissue that is dense on a mammogram.
• Taking hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
• Drinking alcoholic beverages.
• Being white.

The Symptoms

There are multiple types of breast cancer, but the symptoms are often the same. The Mayo Clinic identifies the most common symptoms and signs of breast cancer:

• A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
• Bloody discharge from the nipple
• Change in the size or shape of a breast
• Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
• Inverted nipple
• Peeling or flaking of the nipple skin
• Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange

With inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), many women are unaware of the signs and symptoms, due to the rarity of this type. Often, a lump is never detected, and the disease spreads unbeknownst to the patient.

As identified by the National Cancer Institute, IBC symptoms may include:

• Redness, swelling, and warmth in the breast. Most often, there is never a distinct lump in the breast.
• The skin of the breast may also appear pink, reddish purple, or bruised.
• The skin may also have ridges or appear pitted, like the skin of an orange, which is caused by swelling in the breast.
• Heaviness, burning, aching, an increase in breast size, tenderness, or a nipple that is facing inward.

I’ve Been Diagnosed; What Happens Now?

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, first recognize that you’re not alone. There are a variety of organizations and support groups throughout the country that can help you get through the diagnosis, and furthermore, guide you in the right direction, toward recovery.

CLICK HERE for more information about research happening right now. See how advancements are being made everyday, and who is doing what in the fight to end breast cancer, once and for all.

What’s next? CLICK HERE to read more about the various types of treatment available to fight breast cancer.

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