Breast Cancer is the abnormal growth and uncontrolled division of cells in the breast. Cancer cells can invade and destroy surrounding normal tissue, and can spread throughout the body via blood or lymph fluid (clear fluid bathing body cells) to start a new cancer in another part of the body. Every woman is at risk for breast cancer. As a woman ages, her risk of developing breast cancer rises dramatically regardless of her family history.
There are a number of risk factors for the development of breast cancer including:
- Family history of breast cancer in mother or sister
- Early onset of menstruation and late menopause
- Reproductive history: women who had no children or have children late in life and women who have never breastfed have increased risk
- History of abnormal breast biopsies.
However, more than 70% of women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors.
The likely symptoms of breast cancer include:
A change in how the breast or nipple feels
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
- Nipple tenderness
A change in how the breast or nipple looks
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- The nipple is turned inward into the breast
- The skin of the breast, areola, or nipple may be scaly, red, or swollen. It may have ridges or pitting so that it looks like
the skin of an orange.
- Nipple discharge (fluid)
While breast cancer can't be prevented, it can be diagnosed from a mammogram at an early stage when it is most treatable. Mammography remains the best way of detecting signs of breast cancer. A baseline mammogram should be done by age 35, so that a normal x ray can be used to compare future mammograms, even when there is no reason to believe there is a lump or cyst. In addition, women should check their own breasts at the same time each month.