10 Things Every Woman Should Know About Breast Cancer

The words “breast cancer” invoke fear in women around the world yet we all know someone who has battled or been affected by the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 220,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and an estimated 9.6 million deaths of the disease. With breast cancer being such a pervasive part of our lives, it is important to know some facts.

1. Genetics Play a Small Role

When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, genetics is often blamed. However, most breast cancers occur in women with no family history of the disease or obvious genetic risk. In fact, only 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are believed to be hereditary, says Breastcancer.org on its website.

2. There is No One Size Fits All Treatment

Researchers and oncologists have learned that treating breast cancer is not a cookie-cutter process. While specific types of cancer share similar characteristics from woman to woman, treatment plans are personalized. For example, not every woman will have to endure chemotherapy or require a mastectomy.

3. Second Opinions Matter

When it comes to treating cancer, a second opinion may mean the difference between life and death. Many women are embarrassed or feel guilty about getting a second opinion or worry about offending their doctors. Never feel bad about seeking a second opinion. It is your right and any doctor worth his credentials will welcome one. A second opinion can help make sure you’ve explored all available options for treatment and confirm your diagnosis.

4. Weight is Important

Obesity is believed to contribute to an increased risk of developing cancer in general but it has also been linked specifically to breast cancer. An article written by Jennifer Ligibel, MD, indicates that research showed obesity may not only increase the risk of developing about breast cancer but also increase the risk of recurrence and mortality rates in some cases.

5. Alcohol Increases Risk

After studies showed that red wine had heart health benefits, many women rejoiced. But when it comes to breast cancer, the risks may outweigh the benefits. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), drinking just a few drinks each week increases your breast cancer risk. It’s believed the increased risk is due to alcohol’s effects on estrogen levels.

6. Breastfeeding Lowers Risk

Any step you can take, no matter how small, to decrease your risk of breast cancer is important. Breastfeeding is one of these steps. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the research concluded that mothers who breastfed their babies for a lifetime of one year had a slightly lower chance of getting breast cancer than those who did not. The risk-benefit increased the longer a mother breastfed.

7. Avoid Unnecessary CT Scans

It seems like any time you go to the emergency room a doctor orders a CT scan. While the scans are necessary for many situations, they may not be in all. CT scans expose your body to high levels of radiation. Although the risk is small, it is believed that repeated chest CT scans may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of having a CT scan.

8. Exercise Lowers Risk

Women who exercise at a moderate pace for at least two and a half hours per week are 25 percent less likely to die from breast cancer. According to research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, people who exceeded those recommendations had an even lower risk, and runners who averaged over two and a quarter miles each day lowered their risk of breast cancer mortality by 95 percent.

9. Know the Symptoms

The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the prognosis. breast cancer in its early stages often has no symptoms but as it progresses, the Mayo Clinic indicates you may experience any of the following:

  • A breast lump or thickening
  • Bloody nipple discharge
  • Changes in breast size, shape or appearance
  • Skin dimpling
  • A newly inverted nipple
  • Peeling or flaking of the areola or breast
  • Redness or pitting (like the skin of an orange) of breast skin

10. Breast Cancer Affects Men

Women aren’t the only victims of breast cancer. Men get it too, although in much lower numbers. As a result, it is important for you to educate the men in your life about recognizing breast changes that may indicate signs of the disease.

Years ago, a breast cancer diagnosis was a death sentence. Today, when caught early, it is treatable cancer. Educating yourself, practicing healthy lifestyle habits, and getting regular mammograms and clinical breast exams can help you understand and manage your risks of developing the disease.


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