Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Discussing Risk Factors with Your Doctor
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time when various organizations raise public awareness about the disease and its impact on women worldwide. As an advocate for proactive patients, Pegalis Law Group, LLC analyzes the importance of discussing family history and other risk factors with your doctor. As with other forms of cancer, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment are your best defense.
What Are Common Causes of Breast Cancer?
Cancer develops when cell DNA is damaged. Because it’s often caused by a mixture of genetic and environmental factors, most patients will not be able to pinpoint the exact cause of their cancer. Some breast cancer risk factors can be avoided while others cannot. Risk factors increase if you began early menstruation before the age of 12, if you experienced late menopause after 55, if you had your first child later in life, or if you’ve never given birth at all. Other factors that increase your risk of developing breast cancer include being obese or overweight, leading an inactive lifestyle, eating a diet high in saturated fat, frequently drinking alcohol, or taking a combined hormone replacement therapy for menopause. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you’re also at a higher risk. Contrary to myth, things that do not cause breast cancer include implants, caffeine, deodorants, cellphone or microwave radiation, or wearing an underwire bra.
Who’s Most at Risk for Developing Breast Cancer?
It’s estimated one out of every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer within her lifetime. Over 40,000 U.S. women die from breast cancer every year. Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer found in both American women and women worldwide. Although much rarer, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. Approximately 500 U.S. men die from breast cancer annually. Breast cancer occurs almost 100 times more often in women than men, with Caucasian women diagnosed more frequently than any other race. Two out of every three women diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer are diagnosed after the age of 55, so age is also a significant factor.
I Have Multiple Risk Factors. Will I Get Breast Cancer?
Having multiple risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop breast cancer within your lifetime. It just means you have a higher risk and should talk to your doctor about the possibility. While you may not always be able to avoid it, there are many steps you should take to ensure an early diagnosis. Monthly breast self-exams in the shower, in front of a mirror, and while lying down are encouraged, followed up with annual clinical breast exams and mammograms. Mammograms are x-rays that can identify breast lumps before they can be felt or seen with the naked eye. If you’re over the age of 40, you should have a mammogram every one to two years or as advised by your doctor.
What Are Common Symptoms and Signs of Breast Cancer?
Thanks to ongoing efforts to raise public awareness about breast cancer, there are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone. You should be aware of the common symptoms and signs for early diagnosis and treatment. Talk to your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- Nipple tenderness or inverted nipples
- Lumps near the breast or underarm areas
- Changes in skin texture around the breasts (scaly, red, or dimpling)
- Unexplained swelling or shrinkage of breasts (especially on one side)
- Milky, bloody, or clear nipple discharge when not breastfeeding
Advocates for Proactive Patients for Nearly 50 Years
Pegalis Law Group, LLC is a New York-based law firm dedicated to educating clients about the importance of being proactive about healthcare. Focused on helping those who have suffered from personal injury or medical negligence for nearly 50 years, we’re committed to ensuring safer medical practices and improved patient care for all. Please visit our website and follow us on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to receive additional tips and updates on how you can be a proactive patient.