October is breast cancer awareness month here in the US, and a timely reminder for all women to get regular checkups to protect themselves against this widespread condition.
All women should bring themselves up to speed regarding breast cancer, the factors that cause it, and how they can spot it in time. Here are some of the most important facts regarding breast cancer.
1. Along with skin cancer, it’s the most common cancer among women
Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among women, second only to skin cancer. Of all types of cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer kill the most number of women in America.
Breast cancer can be caused by wide-ranging factors. Older age, dense breasts, a lack of childbearing, a lack of breastfeeding, obesity, a lack of fitness, and dietary patterns play a role.
2. 40,000 women are expected to die this year because of breast cancer
In 2014, a total of 232,670 women are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and around 40,000 of those with the existing condition are expected to die. There are almost 3 million breast cancer survivors in the US.
3. African-American women are at a greater risk
Research has found that African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Women of other ethnicities – Asian, Hispanic, and Native American – are less likely to develop this cancer or die from it.
4. Being a woman itself is a risk factor
While breast cancer is by no means confined to women, being one certainly puts you at a greater risk of developing it.
5. Breast cancer can strike anyone
However, it is more commonly found in women over the age of 45.
6. The link with genetics is not clear
Depending on which website you visit, you get conflicting versions. Some claim that women with close blood relatives who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are at a great risk of developing it themselves. Others put the role of genetics as a cause in only 5%-10% of total breast cancer cases.
7. Your lifestyle plays a role too
Obesity and a lack of exercise have been found to have a role in the development of breast cancer. If you maintain your body weight through the various stages of your life and/or exercise a few times a week with moderate intensity, the dense fat tissue in your breasts is less likely to go cancerous.
Eating healthy, exercising regularly, consuming alcohol in moderation, and cutting out smoking make good additions to the lifestyles of women in general, and have been found to significantly bring down the risk of breast cancer.
8. Self-examination should be a part of your routine
Examining their breasts should be a regular routine with women, especially those over the age of 30. Watch out for how your breasts look and feel over time. Pay particular attention to any of the following:
• Rashes around nipples
• A blood-like nipple discharge
• Pain in the breast or the armpit
• Scaling skin around the nipples
• A change in the shape of the breast
• A visible difference in the appearance of the nipple
Report any changes to your doctor for an expert opinion.
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to examine your breasts.
9. Women with breast implants need to examine their breasts too
There is absolutely no correlation between getting implants and developing breast cancer. Women with implants should also examine their breasts, or have them examined at their local clinic, regularly.
Due to the nature of implants, the breast tissue is pushed further up which makes detection of lumps easier.
10. 1% of breast cancer patients are men
Women are 100 times more likely than men to develop breast cancer but that does not mean that men don’t get it themselves.
Even though rare in men (only 1% of breast cancer patients are men) there is unfortunately a lot of stigma associated with men talking about it in open, although it’s changing now. As per one report, “An estimated 2,360 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. this year, and 430 men are predicted to die from it.”
Stay safe and spread the awareness regarding the factors behind breast cancer as much as you can. Detecting breast cancer at an early stage can save many lives.