Am I at risk?
Some women are at a particularly higher risk than others due to:
Age: risk of breast cancer increases with age.
Family history: of breast cancer i.e. women whose mother, grandmothers, aunts or sisters have developed breast cancer, are at an increased risk.
Repeat: Women, who previously had breast cancer, have a slightly higher chance of having breast cancer in the other breast.
Early Periods: Women who started their periods (menarche) at an earlier age (before 12 years).
Delayed childbearing: women who did not breast-feed their infants, or those who never had children.
Late menopause: after the age of 50.
Obesity: Women that are very over weight run the risk of developing Breast Cancer.
Diet: Rich in animal fat can increase your chances.
It is important to mention here that even if several risk factors are present, if does not necessarily mean that cancer will develop in these cases. It is equally important to mention that 75% of women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors.
Appearance: Any change in the appearance of breasts should be noticed. Usually in a woman, the two breasts are symmetrical.
Bumps: Any contour change in the breast or any lump/ bump noticed needs immediate doctor's consultation. Lumps may be benign or malignant i.e. cancerous.
Color and texture: Discoloration of skin over the breast or changes in texture, making it thick, may be due to infection/ inflammatory condition and very rarely due a so called 'inflammatory breast cancer'.
Discharge from the nipple: Discharge from the nipple may also occur in benign conditions, but a blood stained discharge from the nipple is not a good sign, and may be an indicator of an underlying cancer.
Excoriations: Excoriations are seen as erosion occurring in nipple and are commonly seen during lactation. If they occur in older age group, they must be brought to a doctor's attention. They can occur in a form of cancer called as 'Paget's' disease of the breast
Feeling of discomfort: Discomfort or pain in one breast that is different to what is normal for you.
Gynecomastia: This is an enlargement of male breasts. It occurs because of hormonal imbalance and is seen during puberty with second peak after 50yrs.
HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy): Women taking a HRT are at a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer, and must visit doctor regularly.
Lump: During breast self examination, regularly assess and feel for any new lump or a nodule.
Mastalgia: is pain in the breasts. This is more a symptom of young and adolescent women, occurs before the periods. Mastalgia does not usually occur in a cancer.
Nipple: Nipple may be a source of symptoms for some women. Like for example, a nipple discharge which is new and not milky, needs to be evaluated by a doctor. Bleeding or moist red areas around the nipple which don't heal easily may be a sign of an underlying cancer. Watch out for the direction of the nipple. Normally, in a women's upright position with hands by the side, the nipple points downwards and outwards. Any change in the position of the nipple, like if it is being pulled 'in' or points in a different direction, must promptly be reported to a doctor.
Skin: During regular examination, the skin over the breast must be paid special attention to. In some advanced cancers, the skin over the breast becomes like the 'peel' of the fruit orange. Sometimes, if the skin is tethered to the underlying cancer, there will be 'puckering' of the skin.
SABCA Foundation, a fiscally sponsored project of United Charitable Programs - a registered 501(c)(3) public charity