Many of us know at least one person affected by breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, following certain skin cancers. This first blog in Pink Ribbon Chronicles aims to shed light on the basics of breast cancer.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is when a malignant (cancerous) tumor is located in the breast tissue. Breast cancer can originate throughout various regions of the breast including the nipples, the lobules (glands that produce breast milk), and breast fat and tissue. Furthermore, there are different types of breast cancer, which are often classified according to the genes and proteins present in a sample of tumor cells.
Causes and risk factors
The causes of breast cancer is attributed to the interplay of several risk factors. Some of these factors may be out of control, such as aging, having a family history of breast cancer, and having a higher breast density. However, certain health behaviors are modifiable, or under your control. For example, lack of physical activity and being overweight after menopause has shown to increase risk of breast cancer. Alcohol is also linked to breast cancer; the more you consume, the greater your risk. Aspects of your reproductive health may contribute to higher breast cancer risk, such as deciding to have kids after age 30 or choosing not to breastfeed.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you notice changes in your breast anatomy, it is important to consult your provider. Various imaging procedures may be recommended to determine cancer diagnosis. Your provider may request an ultrasound of the breast, and MRI, or a diagnostic mammogram. If cancer is detected, then further testing may be done to determine the stage of the cancer, or in other words, how much the cancer has spread and advanced. Depending on the stage and type of breast cancer, your provider may recommend different treatment options. Removing the tumor through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are common treatments which may be used individually or together. Also, your provider may recommend you explore enrolling in a clinical trial in the case other treatment options are insufficient.
While this article provides a brief introduction to the complexities of breast cancer, there is so much to learn regarding breast health! Stay tuned for the upcoming articles for breast cancer awareness month. As always, if you have any concerns regarding your breast health, schedule an appointment with us.
- CDCBreastCancer. Breast Cancer Statistics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published November 29, 2022. Accessed September 11, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/statistics/index.htm
- CDCBreastCancer. What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published July 31, 2023. Accessed September 11, 2023.https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/risk_factors.htm