The ACS defines breast cancer as a malignant tumor that forms in the cells of the breast and can grow into surrounding tissues or spread to other areas of the body. There are many factors that increase a person's risk for developing breast cancer. While some factors cannot be controlled, one way that people can lower their risk is by reducing their body mass index (BMI). Higher BMIs have been linked to increased levels of estrogen, heightened levels of which can lead to breast cancer. Other risk factors include:
- Personal health history (age at onset of menstruation and menopause, other cancer in the family, alcohol usage)
Contrary to popular belief, women are not the only ones at risk for breast cancer. Although rare, men of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and those with extensive family histories of breast, prostate, ovarian, pancreatic or skin cancers may also be diagnosed with breast cancer and should speak with their PCPs about close surveillance. After assessing an individual's risk, a PCP is able to order tests such as mammograms, ultrasounds or biopsies to examine breast tissue.
Self awareness is another important aspect of cancer detection. Simply noticing if something has changed with your body is often the first step to early diagnosis and treatment. Discuss any changes you find with your PCP, and he or she will review your medical history to determine whether action should be taken. Some symptoms of breast cancer may include:
- Lumps or thickening in or near the breast or underarm
- A change in the size or shape of a breast
- Blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple
- A change in the skin or the breast or nipple
- Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple
- An area that is distinctly different from other areas on the breast
For more information about your risk for breast cancer, speak with your PCP. if you do not have a PCP, visit www.mygbmcdoctor.com or call 443-849-GBMC to find one who is right for you.