Breast cancer is the number one cancer diagnosis for women in the United States. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in every eight women will be diagnosed in her lifetime. It is the second leading cause of death for women, with nearly 235,000 new cases being diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
Testing for Breast Cancer
Experts recommend that women keep up with cancer screenings to increase the odds of early detection. However, the medical community appears split when it comes to how often women should get a mammogram. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a mammogram every two years for women aged 50 to 74. Most experts, including The American Cancer Society, advise annual mammograms beginning at age 40.
Causes for developing Breast Cancer
Exactly what causes breast cancer is still unclear. It is most likely triggered by a combination of factors. Medical professionals speculate that genes, hormones and environmental factors may all be at play. According to the American Cancer Society, inherited gene mutations (including the BRCA genes) can make women significantly more likely to develop certain types of breast cancer. In fact, more and more women who test positive for one of these genes are undergoing elective mastectomies to prevent the disease. The ACS recognizes some lifestyle choices as ones that may increase the risk for breast cancer. Having children later in life or not at all, undergoing hormone replacement therapy, drinking alcohol, not breastfeeding, or being overweight may all increase breast cancer risk.
When it comes to symptoms, there are certain signs women should watch out for when conducting monthly self-exams. Changes in the way breasts or nipples feel or look is a red flag. This includes lumps, skin texture changes, pain, tenderness, new asymmetry and dimpling. Nipple discharge is another symptom.
In terms of breast cancer treatment, these are all possible treatment paths:
- Targeted therapy and hormone therapy
A lumpectomy is a procedure that removes the cancerous tissue only, which spares the rest of the breast. A mastectomy fully removes all of the breast tissue in order to eliminate cancer cells.
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