Breast can­cer fre­quently asked ques­tions

The Covington News - - Health -

In re­cent years, much has been done to shed a spot­light on the prob­lem of breast can­cer. but there still ex­ists a moun­tain of mis­in­for­ma­tion with re­gards to breast can­cer. Be­low are some of the more com­mon ques­tions and an­swers with re­spect to breast can­cer.

Un­for­tu­nately, this is not a black and white an­swer, as many fac­tors can in­flu­ence the like­li­hood of get­ting breast can­cer. One of the more wellestab­lished risk fac­tors for breast can­cer is age. The rate of breast can­cer in women un­der the age of 40 is low, while it be­gins to in­crease in women older than 40 and is at its high­est in women over 70. Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety (ACS), 95 per­cent of women di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer each year are over the age of 40.

An­other com­mon risk fac­tor for breast can­cer is fam­ily his­tory. A woman with an im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­ber (mother, sis­ter, or daugh­ter) with breast can­cer has a two to three times greater chance of de­vel­op­ing the dis­ease her­self than a woman with no such fam­ily his­tory. That chance is 4 times as great for women who have more than one im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­ber with breast can­cer.

El­e­vated es­tro­gen lev­els in post­menopausal women also in­crease the risk for breast can­cer. Women with higher lev­els of estra­diol, a type of es­tro­gen, had twice the risk of breast can­cer than women with nor­mal lev­els of estra­diol in their blood­stream. For­tu­nately, this risk fac­tor can be mit­i­gated by the choices an in­di­vid­ual makes. That’s be­cause es­tro­gen lev­els can be low­ered by daily ex­er­cise, a healthy diet, lim­it­ing al­co­hol in­take and main­tain­ing a healthy weight.

Al­though it is rare, men can get breast can­cer. While fewer than 1 out of ev­ery 100 cases of breast can­cer oc­curs in men, the ACS es­ti­mated that in 2007 2,030 cases of breast can­cer na­tion­wide have oc­cured in men. While that’s a rel­a­tively small fig­ure, it does quell the myth that breast can­cer is a dis­ease that solely af­fects women.

Reg­u­larly check­ing your breasts for signs and symp­toms is the best way to find the dis­ease in its ear­li­est stages, when breast can­cer is at its most treat­able. Three ba­sic meth­ods of de­tec­tion work the best.

1. Mam­mo­gram: Th­ese are X-ray pic­tures of the breast­that can de­tect breast can­cer even be­fore the for­ma­tion of a lump. Med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als sug­gest that all women over the age of 40 have a mam­mo­gram ev­ery year.

2. Breast self-exam: This in­volves ex­am­in­ing your breasts, both with your eyes and by feel­ing them to de­tect if there are any lumps. This should be per­formed on a monthly ba­sis, and any ab­nor­mal­i­ties should be re­ported to a physi­cian im­me­di­ately.

3. Clin­i­cal breast exam: This in­volves a trip to your physi­cian, who will check both your breasts and un­der­arms for any lumps or changes. This should be sched­uled at least once ev­ery three years for women un­der 40, and ev­ery year for women 40 and older.

To learn more about breast can­cer, visit the Su­san G. Komen for the Cure Web site at www.komen.org.

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