October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
is the most common type of cancer in women in the United states (after
skin cancer). More than 200,000 women each year are newly diagnosed
with breast cancer. When breast tissue begins to grow in an abnormal
way, it develops into a tumor. Of course, not all tumors are malignant
(cancerous). Some of these tumors are benign.
There are many
risk factors for breast cancer. These include age, race, previous
history of breast cancer, family history of breast cancer, certain
genetic markers, history of radiation to the area, and
menstrual/hormonal history, breast density, obesity, alcohol, and
Breast cancer will often have few to no
symptoms. This is why screening is so important. Of course, if you
notice any change in the appearance or feel of your breasts, you should
check with your doctor.
Currently, women over 40 are recommended
to have screening mammograms on a regular basis. Women under 40 are
sometimes recommended to have screening mammograms depending on the
number of risk factors she may have. Of course, no test is perfect so
women are encouraged to undergo regular breast exams performed by their
doctor as well as breast self exam.
In addition to mammography and
breast exam, other tools are used to make the diagnosis of breast
cancer. These include Ultrasound, MRI, and biopsy. A biopsy is when a
breast surgeon removes a tiny amount of the breast tissue in question
and has a pathologist look at it under a microscope to detect any
Other tests that are important in breast cancer
include hormone receptors and a test for a special type of breast tissue
receptor called HER-2. Knowing about these receptors helps your doctor
determine the best treatment options for you.
There are many
treatment options for breast cancer. These include a wide variety of
surgical options, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy and
radiation. The type of treatment will depend on the type of cancer a
person has as well as the stage of the cancer (how far it has advanced).
Of course, there are new and emerging therapies that are currently in
development as well as lifestyle related recommendations. You and your
doctor should discuss which treatment options are best for you.
final note, men can get breast cancer too. If you are a man and notice
any breast changes, you should check with your doctor.