What are the probable causes?
1. Genetic factor: A positive family history increases the risk of breast cancer in first-line relatives (mother, sister, or daughter).
2. Hormonal factor:
• Nulliparous women
• Late age at the time of the birth of the first child
• Late menopause
• Functioning ovarian tumors
• Use of oral contraceptives and hormone therapy during menopause.
3. Environment factor: Exposure to ionizing radiation.
4. Nutritional factors:
• Dietary intake of fat seems to increase the risk.
• Obesity increases the risk of breast cancer.
• High intake of alcohol (wine) too adds to the risk.
Can any lifestyle corrections be done to prevent it?
• Consumption of fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
• Avoid consumption of alcohol.
• Moderate physical activity is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.
• Few hours per week of vigorous activity is associated with 30% reduction in risk.
Is there a high risk age bracket when women should be cautious of this possibility?
Most breast cancers (8 out of 10) occur in women who are over the age of 50.
On average, an individual woman has a 1-in-8 chance of developing breast cancer over an 80-year lifespan.
The younger you are, the lower the risk. For example:
• If your current age is 20-30, the probability of developing invasive breast cancer in the next 10 years is around 0.5%.
• If your current age is 40-50, the probability of developing invasive breast cancer in the next 10 years is 1.5%-2%.
• If your current age is 60-70, the probability of developing invasive breast cancer in the next 10 years is 3.5%-4%.
Are there any diagnostic tests advised periodically to diagnose in early stages?
• Self examination: an option for women starting in their 20’s.
• Clinical breast examination: done by physician.
1. Between 20-40 years of age - Once in three years or yearly if the woman has a family history of breast cancer.
2. After 40 years: every year.
• Mammography: Beginning at age of 40 years, yearly mammogram to be done.
• High risk women: Yearly mammogram and MRI.
What are the most common symptoms of breast cancer?
• Breast cancer symptoms vary widely.
• Can present as a lump or swelling.
• Skin changes: skin dimpling, puckering, erosion and nipple retraction.
• Many breast cancers have no obvious symptoms at all.
Anything else that is not commonly known?
• Breast cancer affects women regardless of breast size: can affect women with small breasts, medium breasts, large breasts.
• A lump isn’t always cancer: Several benign (not cancer) breast conditions may cause a lump in the breast.
• May experience lumpy breasts just before their period. This is a normal response to changing hormones and often the lump or lumpiness disappears after the period. However, if this doesn’t go away, it’s important to get it checked out by a doctor.
• Although breast cancer cannot be prevented, the risks of developing breast cancer can be minimized through specific preventive activities.
• Earlier detection, increased knowledge and understanding can improve the survival rates in women with breast cancer.
Also read about: Cervical Cancer and the vaccine against it
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