Beating Breast Cancer: How To Reduce Risks and Fight After Diagnosis
Few health campaigns have caught the national eye quite like Breast Cancer Awareness, and it’s clear to see why support for this cancer is so imperative. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer for women in the U.S. More than 230,000 women here get diagnosed yearly. Coming together for a cure and wearing pink is a way to give hope to survivors and patients who are still battling the disease, as well as their friends and families.
It’s important to know that while tests can be scary, early diagnosis and treatment is key for survival. There is currently no concrete evidence of what causes breast cancer, so the best way to reduce individual risk is by becoming familiar with the symptoms and factors (genetic and lifestyle) that may increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer.
Risks and Prevention
Risk factors for breast cancer can be divided into two categories – genetic and lifestyle. While some factors have definite links to developing breast cancer, there are several factors that are less conclusive in their ties.
Genetic factors that can increase risk include:
- Female gender – it’s less common for men to get breast cancer than females
- Increasing age – if you’re over 50, the CDC recommends a mammogram screening every two years
- Breast density – higher breast density has a higher risk
- Gene mutations – such as in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (responsible for proteins that repair damaged DNA)
- Hereditary and family history – women with first-degree [close] relatives have a higher chance of developing the disease; only about 5% of cases are thought to be inherited gene defects from parent to child
Some lifestyle factors include:
- Physical activity – may provide some protection against breast cancer
- Weight – obesity in post-menopausal women is associated with increased risk
- Alcohol consumption- heavy and frequent drinking
- Reproductive history – early age of menarche, increased age at first pregnancy, and later menopause is associated with greater risk
Awareness of these and other risks factors is important. Monitoring based on level of risk can help with early detection.
Finding a palpable breast mass may occur during an individual’s self-breast examination while others are found during a provider’s routine clinical breast examination. Learning how to self-check is essential so that when something potentially does feel irregular you have the ability to benchmark against what is normal for you. From there, a screening test can help identify signs of breast cancer.
Potential breast cancer findings include:
- An increase or decrease in the size of the breast or a change in breast symmetry
- Masses or lumps may be soft or hard, mobile or fixed, painless or painful to touch
- Skin changes such as bruising, redness, ulceration or an orange-peel appearance
- Nipple discharge, retraction, or redness
If something abnormal is detected by the screening exam, your practitioner would order an imaging study to further examine suspicious areas. These might include:
- Mammogram – a detailed x-ray exploration of the breast
- Breast Ultrasound – uses sound waves to see if a breast mass is solid or cystic as well as checks the blood flow into different areas
- Breast MRI – provides detailed images of inside the breast tissue using radio waves and strong magnets
A breast biopsy (removing cells from an area) would be needed as follow-up to these tests to make a definitive diagnosis of breast cancer.
Once diagnosed, your care team will discuss treatment options based on the cancer’s location, type, and stage. No matter the treatment type, it’s important to know that you are able to ask questions to better understand your treatment options, potential side effects, and treatment timelines. Always seek a second opinion from a qualified physician; this will also help you feel more secure in the plan chosen.
Physicians and advanced practitioners are there to answer your questions and concerns. If you’re looking for additional support, here are some resources specializing in breast cancer.
To learn more about our urgent care centers, call 888-MDNow-911 or visit www.MDNow.com.
MD Now® Urgent Care Walk-In Medical Centers is the leading provider of fast and affordable urgent care to adults and children in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties. Our state-of-the-art, walk-in medical centers are open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to deliver an affordable and convenient alternative to long emergency room wait times and the limited hours of family physicians. No appointment is necessary and major insurance plans are accepted. In addition to providing a comprehensive range of urgent care services to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries, our multiple locations offer digital x-rays, EKG, ultrasounds, lab testing, physicals, immunizations, vaccines, physical therapy, occupational medicine, travel medicine and selected primary care services. Find the medical care you need with the convenience you want at MD Now. Call: 888-MDNow-911, online: www.MDNow.com.