Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in the United States, and it’s the most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women. Here’s what you need to know so you can identify the symptoms and reduce your risks.
What Is Breast Cancer?
It all starts when abnormal breast cells grow into a tumor. Once a mass is detected through a mammogram, a test called a biopsy is performed to tell if the mass is cancerous or benign (not cancerous).
If the mass is benign, you’re out of the danger zone. If the cells are cancerous, they can spread to other parts of the body. Your doctors will help you make the best decisions for your treatment so you can start as soon as possible.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Your lifestyle, along with many other factors, can increase your risk of breast cancer:
- Getting older
- Not having children, or having your first child later in life
- Starting your first menstrual period at an early age
- Beginning menopause at a late age
- Personal history of breast cancer or certain benign breast diseases
- Having close family relatives who have had breast cancer
- Being overweight, particularly after menopause
- Using hormone replacement therapy for a long time
- Using oral contraceptives
- Drinking alcohol
- Being physically inactive
- Having a genetic condition, such as certain mutations in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
- Having been treated with radiation therapy to the breast or chest
What Are the Symptoms?
In the early stages, the tumor may be too small to feel and does not cause any symptoms. As it grows, you may experience some of these symptoms:
- A new lump in the breast or a lump that has changed
- A change in the shape or size of the breast
- Pain in the nipple or breast that doesn’t go away
- Swollen, red, or flaky skin on the breast
- Nipple becomes tender or turns inward
- Nipple leaks blood or non-milk fluiid
Talk to your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
When and How to Get Tested
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), most women should start routine screenings for breast cancer at the age of 50. The screening is done with a mammogram, which takes X-ray images of the breast. It is the best and most reliable way to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before symptoms occur.
If your mammogram comes back abnormal or your doctor says that more tests are needed, it’s not always bad news. Your doctor can request additional tests for more insight.
Catching it early is important – treatment is most helpful in the beginning stages. There is an estimated 27% survival rate if breast cancer is caught in the late stages. On the other hand, if cancer is caught in early stages, women have 99% survival rate. So, get tested regularly to give yourself the best chance to stay healthy!
Just like any other illness, you can help minimize your risk for breast cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
- Get tested today: schedule your mammogram with us
- Exercise regularly
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Drink water regularly
- Eat fresh and nutritious foods
- Keep stress levels as low as possible
At AltaMed, we want to ensure that our patients have the proper care and education to take charge of their health. For the month of October, we will be offering free AltaMed gift bags to women who complete their mammograms at one of our locations. To learn more or schedule a mammogram today, please call (888) 499-9303.
Grow Pink this October and all year long!