October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we want to help spread awareness by sharing education around this topic. Below you will find a list of some common questions related to breast cancer and the answers.
What is Breast Cancer?
The American Cancer Society defines breast cancer as, “A type of cancer that starts in the breast. Cancer starts when cells begin to grow out of control. Breast cancer cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump.”
What are the Stages of Breast Cancer?
- Stage 0. This is a precancerous stage with no invasive cancer cells.
- Stage 1 (localized). The tumor is small and localized to the breast. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) reports that 62 percent of women are diagnosed at stage 1.
- Stage 2 (localized). The tumor is either greater than 2 cm or has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
- Stage 3 (regional). This stage includes cancers that have spread to the skin, chest wall or multiple lymph nodes in or near the breast.
- Stage 4 (distant). This is metastatic breast cancer, meaning it’s spread to one or more distant parts of the body, most commonly to the bones, lungs, or liver.
How Is Breast Cancer Detected?
Regular breast screenings are the best way to detect breast cancer early. Most women should begin screening between the ages of 40-50. If a woman has a family history of breast cancer in a first degree relative (parent, sibling, or child), she should consider starting screening mammograms earlier than age 40-50. Consult your physician about when you should begin mammograms, and how frequently mammograms should be done.
What is a Mammogram?
Mammograms are low-dose x-rays of the breast. Regular mammograms can help find breast cancer at an early stage when treatment is most successful. A mammogram can often find breast changes that could be cancer years before physical symptoms develop. Results from many decades of research clearly show that women who have regular mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer found early, are less likely to need aggressive treatment like surgery to remove the breast (mastectomy) and chemotherapy, and are more likely to be cured.
What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer can be present without any symptoms. However, some of the most common symptoms according to the CDC, include:
- New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast. Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Know your breasts and know if something feels abnormal. If you do feel something that does not feel right contact your physician to arrange for an evaluation in the clinic.
What is the Treatment for Breast Cancer?
Depending on the breast cancer type, stage, if it has spread to another area of the body and any other special considerations there are numerous types of treatments. Common treatments include:
- Hormone Therapy
- Targeted Drug Therapy
The patient and the physician will determine the best treatment options for each unique circumstance.
Is Breast Cancer Preventable?
There is no way to completely prevent breast cancer, but there are certain things you can do to lower your risk, such as:
- Limit alcohol - According to The American Cancer Society, “Women who have 1 alcoholic drink a day have a small (about 7% to 10%) increase in risk compared with non-drinkers, while women who have 2 to 3 drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk than non-drinkers.”
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise-The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week (or a combination of these). Getting to or going over the upper limit of 300 minutes is ideal.
- Having children before 30 - This is a complex topic and we recommend finding more information here.
- Consider non-hormonal birth control options
Can Men Get Breast Cancer?
Yes, men can get breast cancer. According to the CDC, 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man. Men who notice a new lump in the breast or underarm should see their physician for evaluation.
Early Detection is Key
Early detection of breast cancer is key to successful treatment of the disease. This is why your regular checkups are so important. Don’t put it off. Schedule your regular doctor’s visit today.