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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Not only is it a month to support breast cancer research and the people affected, but it is also a time where we encourage others to get checked. According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%. Ascend Medical's Primary Care services provide the opportunity to discuss your concerns regarding breast cancer such as risks and support, as well as getting a screening from the comfort and security of your own home.

What is Breast Cancer?

According to the CDC, breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. Breast cancer is the most common cancer that is diagnosed in women across the United States. It occurs when the breast cells begin to grow abnormally in different parts of the breast. The most common kinds of breast cancers begin in the ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma), which are the tubes that carry milk to the nipple, or the lobules (invasive ductal carcinoma), the glands that produce milk. Breast cancer can continue to spread throughout the body through blood and lymph vessels by metastasis.

A less common type of breast cancer is Paget's disease, a rare type of breast cancer that affects the outer parts of the breast - the nipple and areola. Additionally, there are other types of less common breast cancers such as medullary and mucinous carcinomas to the breast and inflammatory breast cancer.

Is Breast Cancer Hereditary?

Yes and no. There are certain mutated genes that can be inherited from a parent. For example, BRCA1 and BRCA2 in normal cells help make the proteins that repair damaged DNA. However, the mutated versions can lead to breast cancer causing abnormal cell growth.

About 5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary. Women who have close blood relatives with breast cancer have a greater risk. That's why it is very important for women to know their family history of breast cancer.

How Common is Breast Cancer?

There is a 1 in 8 chance that a woman will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. This makes breast cancer the most common cancer in American women. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women — the first being lung cancer. Historically, breast cancer is more common in white women than African American, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American women. However, Black women can develop more advanced-stage breast cancer, so it is especially important to be aware of any signs or symptoms.

What is Usually the First Sign of Breast Cancer?

The most common sign of breast cancer is a lump in the breast. However, there are other signs and symptoms to be aware of. Our bodies produce warning signs that let us know something is wrong. Knowing your breasts is one of the best ways to help find breast cancer early. Most of the time, a lump is found during normal everyday activities, like bathing and dressing. If you notice anything feels or looks "off," let your Ascend Medical provide know right away:

  • A new lump in the breast or underarm
  • Swelling in your armpit or near your collarbone
  • Swelling of the breast
  • Dimpling or irritation of breast skin
  • Redness of flay skin in the nipple
  • Pulling in of the nipple
  • Pain in any area of the breast including the nipple
  • Nipple discharge such as blood
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast

Breast Cancer Screening

Because breast cancer often has no symptoms till it's more advanced, regular breast cancer screening is critically important to help find it early, when it's more curable.

A woman of average risk (has no personal or strong family history of breast cancer or genetic mutations) should begin screening with an annual mammogram between the ages of 40 to 45. Discuss the right time for you with your Ascend Medical provider. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of the breast that is used to identify characteristic masses or microcalcifications that can be a sign of breast cancer.

Women at high risk for breast cancer should get a breast MRI and mammogram every year starting as early as age 30. Talk to your providers at Ascend Medical about your history, concerns, and personal preferences. They will guide you through screenings and how to look out for symptoms and signs of breast cancer.

Can Men Get Breast Cancer?

Although rare, men can get breast cancer. According to the CDC, "1 out of 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man." The most common types of breast cancers found in women can also be found in men. Most of the symptoms in men are similar to the ones women experience as well:

  • A lump or swelling in the breast
  • Redness or flaky skin in the breast
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
  • Nipple discharge
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area

Risk factors that increase a man's chance of breast cancer include increasing age, inherited gene mutations, and family history. Similar to women, increased weight also increases the chance of breast cancer in men. Breast cancer is often found in more advanced stages in men because they will often ignore the early signs and symptoms — or not realize breast cancer can occur in men.

Treatment for men is the same as it is in women and can involve surgery, chemo, and several types of therapy.

How Can I Support Breast Cancer Awareness & Research?

Breast cancer awareness helps save lives. You can support Breast Cancer Awareness all year long through donations, fundraising, or attending events for organizations such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and Susan G. Komen.

If you have been diagnosed yourself, or someone you love has been affected by breast cancer, there are plenty of support groups you can find through the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen. And of course, our team at Ascend Medical is always here to assist you in finding the support you need.

To talk with one of our medical providers about breast cancer symptoms and screening, schedule a same-day, primary care appointment today!

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