Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts.After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it’s far more common in women.
Substantial support for awareness and research funding has helped created advances in the diagnosis and treatment of it. The survival rates have increased, and the number of deaths associated with this disease is steadily declining, largely due to factors such as earlier detection, a new personalized approach to treatment and a better understanding of the disease.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include:
- A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
- Change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
- Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
- A newly inverted nipple
- Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin
- Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange.
When to see a doctor
If you find a lump or other change in your breast — even if a recent mammogram was normal — consult your doctor for prompt evaluation.
Doctors know that this cancer occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass. Cells may spread (metastasize) through your breast to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.
This cancer most often begins with cells in the milk-producing ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma). It may also begin in the glandular tissue called lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) or in other cells or tissue within the breast.
Researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that may increase your risk of cancer. But it’s not clear why some people who have no risk factors develop cancer, yet other people with risk factors never do. It’s likely that breast cancer is caused by a complex interaction of your genetic makeup and your environment
A risk factor is anything that makes it more likely you’ll getthe cancer. But having one or even several breast cancer risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop it. Many women who develop this cancer have no known risk factors other than simply being women.
Factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:
- Being female. Women are much more likely than men are to develop breast cancer.
- Increasing age. Your risk of breast cancer increases as you age.
- A personal history of breast conditions. If you’ve had a breast biopsy that found lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast, you have an increased risk of cancer.
- A personal history of breast cancer. If you’ve had this in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
- A family history of breast cancer. If your mother, sister or daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly at a young age, your risk of cancer is increased. Still, the majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
- Inherited genes that increase cancer risk. Certain gene mutations that increase the risk can be passed from parents to children. The most well-known gene mutations are referred to as BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes can greatly increase your risk of breast cancer and other cancers, but they don’t make cancer inevitable.
- Radiation exposure. If you received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, your risk of breast cancer is increased.
- Obesity. Being obese increases your risk.
- Beginning your period at a younger age. your period before age 12 increases your risk of.
- Beginning menopause at an older age. If you began menopause at an older age, you’re more likely to develop it.
Making changes in your daily life may help reduce your risk of cancer. Try to:
- Ask your doctor about breast cancer screening. Discuss with your doctor when to begin screening exams and tests, such as clinical breast exams and mammograms.Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of screening. Together, you can decide what screening strategies are right for you.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink a day, if you choose to drink.
- Exercise most days of the week. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. If you haven’t been active lately, ask your doctor whether it’s OK and start slowly.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If your weight is healthy, work to maintain that weight. If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy strategies to accomplish this. Reduce the number of calories you eat each day and slowly increase the amount of exercise.
- Choose a healthy diet. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. People who follow the Mediterranean diet choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, over butter and fish instead of red meat.
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