Understanding what to look for and when to seek help for symptoms or changes to normal breast tissue is the first step in obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Outcomes for breast cancer vary widely depending on the individual patient, and the type and location of the cancer. Depending on the type and origin, when caught in the earliest stages (before it has spread outside of the breast and beyond the lymph nodes), breast cancer can be treated successfully.
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What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
The most common symptoms include:
- A lump or hard, thick mass on one or both breasts
- Visible changes on skin or nipple, such as puckering, dimpling, dark spots, rash
- Inverted nipple
- Bleeding or discharge from nipple
In many cases, the symptoms from benign breast conditions overlap with the symptoms for cancer, and are typically not cancerous in most cases. However, the only way to determine the cause of changes to healthy breasts or whether a lump is benign is to have it examined by a breast specialist. It is important to seek medical attention for any hanges in breast size, shape, and appearance.
When should I schedule a mammogram?
Traditionally, healthy women with low to moderate risk of developing breast cancer have been advised to schedule a screening mammogram around the age of 40. For high risk women with a family history, genetic mutation, or personal history of cancer, it may be earlier depending on individual circumstances. Consult with a breast cancer specialist to determine what the best time to begin screening is for your individual situation.
How do I know if I’m high risk for developing breast cancer?
Several factors can determine an individual woman’s risk for developing breast cancer. The most common risk factors for developing breast cancer are:
- Age – the risk increases as women age
- Family history – women with a direct relative with breast cancer (mother, daughter, grandmother) can be more likely to develop it as well
- Genetics – Testing positive for certain genetic mutations known to increase the likelihood of developing breast and ovarian cancer, such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutation
- Age at the onset of menstruation, with younger age posing a higher risk
- Age at onset of menopause – older age poses higher risk
- Alcohol abuse
- Being overweight
- Race and ethnicity – White women have the highest rates of new breast cancer diagnoses
Genetic factors and family history account for roughly 5%-10% of all breast cancer diagnoses. Speak to a breast care specialist to determine your individual risk level and what if any preventive measures should be taken. Healthy lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight and eating a clean, nutritious diet is recommended for all women to help manage breast cancer risk.
Should I get genetic testing for breast cancer?
Genetic mutations can either be inherited or develop over time in an individual for many different reasons. Women with a family history of genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 should speak to a doctor and genetic counselor to determine when to get tested.
Contact a Breast Cancer Specialist Today
For compassionate, professional diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Sadia Khan, a fellowship-trained breast surgeon at Hoag Breast Care Center in Newport Beach. Please call 949.390.9381 to schedule a comprehensive consultation today!
Next, read about Breast Symptoms.