October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and it’s time for everyone to review what they know about this common cancer. Get ready to brush up on breast cancer facts everyone needs to know to prevent the disease.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer in which abnormal cells form to create a tumor in the breast tissue. This cancer can spread, or begin metastasizing, to the rest of the body. Breast cancer is most common in women; although, men can also get the disease.
Breast cancer can also be secondary to another cancer which started elsewhere in the body.
According to the Mirror, people who have greater risk for developing breast cancer include women over 50-years-old, people who are overweight or obese, and those who smoke. People who eat a poor diet and do not exercise may also be at greater risk for developing breast cancer. People who have had breast implants are at a greater risk for developing breast cancer because they may not be able to detect lumps in their breasts as easily.
Getting regular mammograms can greatly increase your chances of catching the disease early. Lester Barr, a consultant breast surgeon and founder of the breast cancer prevention charity, Genesis, says routinely checking yourself for breast lumps is important. However, if you find a lump on your own, the cancer may be more advanced and harder to treat.
“The cure rates are particularly good – about 90-95% – if the cancer is found through a routine health screen, so it is absolutely vital to attend your appointment.”
If you know that you have a history of breast cancer in your family, you should consider genetic testing. Genetic testing can detect whether you carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations which can cause breast cancer.
Having a high risk of breast cancer leaves people with two choices. They can opt for preventative surgeries, or they can increase their vigilance and screen for breast cancer more often.
Those who opt for preventative surgeries have both breasts removed. Some have their ovaries removed, too. Dr. Kenneth Smith, a breast surgical oncologist and medical director of breast surgery services at the John B. Amos Cancer Center, said, “We do see increasing numbers of women that — not only with a genetic mutation — want a mastectomy. When they get into their late 40s or early 50s, depending on their family history, their risk will go up significantly. So at that point they tend to take a more aggressive approach as far as doing prophylactic mastectomy.”
According to the Ledger-Enquirer, more women than ever before are considering mastectomies because of cancer, but many of these women do not necessarily meet the criteria to warrant the surgeries as necessary as a preventative measure.
Dr. Smith concurs, “Unfortunately, we’ve also seen an increasing number of women who don’t have a genetic mutation that want to have a prophylactic mastectomy, and the question of whether they benefit significantly is a challenge.”
Those who are at risk and do have the surgery can significantly reduce their chances of developing breast cancer. Someone who had an 86 percent chance of developing breast cancer may only have a three to five percent chance of developing the disease after having a double mastectomy.
Women who do not opt to have a double mastectomy and still have a high risk of breast cancer can have annual mammograms. Some may take a drug called tamoxifen which can lower the chances of developing breast cancer. According to the Mirror, only about 50 percent of high-risk patients who have had genetic testing opt for non-surgical preventative options.
Breast cancer facts everyone needs to know to prevent the disease may change over time as science develops better ways of testing, so stay informed and talk to your doctor regularly about your breast health. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have and always stay up to date with your checkups and mammograms.
[Photos by Media for Medical/UIG via Getty Images; Shutterstock]