Authored by Darlene Zagata in Women’s Health
Published on 08-22-2009
Breast cancer is the result of a tumor developed by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast. In time, the cancerous cells invade healthy breast tissue. Most often, breast cancer is due to a genetic abnormality. The symptoms of breast cancer can vary widely. In fact, there may not be any discernible signs of breast cancer at all.
The most common symptoms of breast cancer include a lump in the breast or thickening of the tissue in the breast or surrounding area. The skin may become pitted or develop a reddish discoloration. There may be a noticeable change in the size or shape of a breast. There may also be noticeable signs in the nipple of the breast such as peeling, flaking or a blood tinged discharge. The nipple may also appear inverted. There may also be swelling in a portion of the breast area.
Risk factors, such as heredity can increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer. As women age, the risk of developing breast cancer increases. There are other factors such as obesity, eating a diet high in red meats and dairy products, smoking and alcohol consumption that increase the risk of breast cancer. Some factors such as diet can be controlled so women should take steps such as eating healthy, to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. Women who may be genetically predisposed to developing breast cancer should limit their intake of red meat, cut back on dairy, limit alcohol consumption and avoid smoking. It is also important to control weight gain and exercise regularly. According to BreastCancer.org, women that breastfeed seem to have a slightly lower incidence of breast cancer.
Women over the age of 40 should perform a breast self-exam each month. If they detect any changes in their breasts, they should inform their physician immediately. Women that are 40 or older should also have a yearly mammogram. Early detection and diagnosis is vital in the treatment of breast cancer. Even if a lump is detected, it does not necessarily mean that it is cancerous. Some growths that develop are benign (not cancerous). Diagnosis includes a series of tests, careful analysis and a biopsy may be necessary (surgical removal of a piece of affected tissue) for microscopic examination and testing.
If breast cancer is confirmed, the physician will present you with treatment options. Treatments can include hormonal, radiation and chemotherapy as well as surgery. Holistic and complementary medicine may be considered as well. You and your physician will decide what course of treatment is best for you. There are many more options now available for women with breast cancer than in previous years. It is important to keep a positive outlook during treatment. Emotional support from family and friends can be immensely helpful in alleviating depression and helping one to deal with the side effects that often accompany various forms of treatment. Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer may also find it beneficial to join a support group. It can help to communicate with others who are dealing with the same type of situation.