Breast Cancer overview
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the cells of the breast. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the US. While it’s much more common in women, breast cancer does occur in men as well. Thanks to a strong push to support research and awareness, advances in screenings and prevention have helped steadily decline the deaths associated with breast cancer.
The major symptoms of breast cancer can vary but often include a few key signs. The first is a lump found in the breast that feels different from the surrounding tissue. Others will notice as chance in size, shape, or color of the chest, including dimpling. Less well-known signs include a newly inverted nipple and scaling or flaking of the areola or other breast skin.
One of the most significant complications of any form of cancer is the risk of metastasizing. When cancer cells divide and proliferate, they can break off the main cluster and cause cancer to develop in other parts of the body. Breast cancer tends to spread to the lymph nodes first, before many other parts of the body via the lymphatic system.
Even if treatment causes cancer to go into remission, once you have it, your chances of it coming back will be relatively high. This typically means regularly scheduled screenings for the rest of your life.
While researchers still don’t understand the precise causes of breast cancer, the process is more well understood now than ever. Cancer starts to develop when healthy cells develop mutations in their stored DNA, which alters normal function.
The DNA needed to reproduce cells is split into a set of genes from each parent. When this DNA becomes corrupted, it may cause a host of issues, including cancer. Some forms of breast cancer are associated with inherited genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Other risk factors for breast cancer can vary greatly. The most prevalent risk factors are things out of our control, such as family history, being female, and aging. Other women at greater risk include those who developed their period before the age of 12, those who started menopause later in life, those who never had a child, and those who waited until after 30.
Breast cancer is a pervasive form of cancer, with nearly 275,000 people set to be diagnosed this year in the US alone. The much higher risk for women is clear, as women make up approximately 269,000 of the total cases. In fact, around one in eight women will deal with breast cancer at some point in their lives.
Given the seriousness of the diagnosis, anyone who’s worried they or a loved one may be facing breast cancer should talk to a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment are, by far, the best way to increase the chances of success. Only a trusted medical professional can get you on the right path forward.