October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time for us all to come together, raise awareness, and promote education on how everyone can reduce their risk. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among females worldwide, affecting 1 in every 8 women in the US. Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and taking preventive measures are crucial steps in the fight against this disease.
At UAB Medical West, we pride ourselves on our comprehensive Women’s services, offering top-level treatment and education. Today, we will explore the causes, signs, symptoms, and prevention of breast cancer. We'll also discuss ways you can raise awareness during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The Main Causes of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer has no singular known cause; it results from a complex interaction between genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Some of the key factors associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:
A family history of breast cancer can significantly elevate your risk. Mutations in genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 are known to increase susceptibility.
Elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone can increase the risk. This is why early menstruation, late menopause, and hormone replacement therapy all affect breast cancer risk.
As you grow older, the risk of breast cancer increases. Most breast cancers occur in women over 50. The older you get, the more critical it is to schedule a breast cancer screening.
Factors like obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and a sedentary lifestyle have been linked to an increased risk.
Breast Cancer Awareness - Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer is vital for early detection and successful treatment. By educating ourselves and those around us, we work towards protecting the women and men in our lives. Here are some key signs to look for:
Lump or Thickening of the Skin
A painless lump in the breast or underarm is a common symptom of the early stages of breast cancer. The skin is also one of the best indicators of an early problem. Changes in the skin texture, such as redness, dimpling, or puckering, can be warning signs. Be sure to give yourself a quick inspection at least once a month.
Changes in Breast Size or Shape
Any unexplained changes in the size, shape, or appearance of the breast should be investigated by a professional. This includes variations to the nipple, discharge, or sudden tenderness.
It’s important to note that most breast pain is not cancer-related, but you should always consult a healthcare professional if you experience persistent, unexplained breast discomfort. This includes swelling in the chest, collarbone, or armpit area.
Can Men Get Breast Cancer?
Yes, men can get breast cancer, although it is much more rare. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,650 new breast cancer cases will be diagnosed in men in a year, compared with almost 300,000 women.
Men should be aware of the same signs and symptoms and seek medical attention if they notice any abnormalities. Since male breast cancer is less common, it can be easily overlooked or mistaken for another condition.
Remember that early detection significantly improves the chances of successful treatment. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms, the best thing to do is to consult a medical provider near you.
Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer
Although some risk factors, like genetics, are beyond your control, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. It’s important to encourage family and friends to take action as well. Here’s what you can do:
Mammograms and clinical breast exams can help detect breast cancer in its early stages when it's most treatable. If you have additional questions or want to schedule an exam, call us today at (205) 481-7000.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess body weight, especially after menopause, is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The best way to maintain a healthy weight is with a combination of a healthy diet and exercise. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help reduce your risk. For activity, we recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity workouts or 75 minutes of high-intensity workouts each week.
Limit Hormone Therapy
If you're considering hormone replacement therapy, discuss the risks and benefits with your healthcare provider. Limiting the duration of HRT and using the lowest effective dose are two ways to mitigate your risk.
Painting October Pink: Elevating Breast Cancer Awareness
This month, we invite you to join us in a vibrant campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer in unique and impactful ways. Together, we will celebrate stories of strength, inspire change, and foster support for those affected by this widespread disease. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an excellent opportunity to participate and make a difference. Here are some ways to raise awareness:
Join the "pink ribbon" movement by wearing pink clothing and accessories to show your support. Although this may seem inconsequential, whenever someone is reminded of breast cancer, there is an opportunity to save a life.
By reading this, you have already taken the time to educate yourself. You now have the power to protect others. Share information about breast cancer, its risk factors, and the importance of early detection with friends and family.
Participate in Events
Many events and fundraisers take place all over the world during October. Participate in local runs, walks, or charity events dedicated to breast cancer awareness. The National Breast Cancer Foundation offers a full month of virtual events and small actions you can take to help.
Many of the world’s leading breast cancer research facilities and treatment organizations are non-profits. Contributing to these organizations provides care, education, and resources to those who need it most. For a comprehensive list of the top charities and their services, click here.
Scheduling a screening is the absolute best way to detect breast cancer early and ensure effective treatment. Set up one for yourself this month and encourage your loved ones to do the same.
Breast cancer is a formidable opponent, but with knowledge and action, we can reduce risk and raise awareness. During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let's unite to support those affected by this disease and work towards a future where breast cancer is no longer a threat. Stay informed, stay healthy, and make a positive impact in the fight against breast cancer. Your actions save lives.
Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones: Schedule a Screening Today
Proudly serving Birmingham, AL, and beyond, the experts at UAB Medical West take great pride in our Women’s Services. Find a location near you and schedule an appointment today.