Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women with 1 in 8 developing the cancer during her lifetime. The cancer can occur in men as well but is very rare. Only 1 in 1,000 men will develop this type of cancer.
Breast cancer is characterized by changes in the appearance and uncontrolled growth of breast tissue cells, which eventually leads to the formation of a lump or mass in the breast. The exact cause is not completely clear, but there some factors that may put you at a higher risk. These include:
- Gender: Female
- Age: Above 55 years of age
- Race: Caucasian
- Family history: Close relatives having breast cancer
- Personal history: Having had breast cancer in the past
- Menstrual history: Onset of menstruation before age 12 and menopause after age 55
- Reproductive history: Not having given birth or giving birth at a late age
- Genetic mutations: Certain genetic changes increase your risk of developing breast cancer, which may be passed onto your child.
These factors are not under your control, but there are other avoidable factors that if controlled can prevent or lower the risk of developing breast cancer. These include:
- Sedentary lifestyle: Try to be active throughout the day. Participate in some sport or develop a hobby that you enjoy, and which will require physical activity.
- Poor diet: Stick to a balanced diet that includes lots for fruits and vegetables.
- Obesity: Research has shown that gaining excess weight puts you at a higher risk.
- Alcohol: Reduce alcohol consumption as far as possible.
- Radiation to the chest: Having had radiation directed on to the chest region increases the likelihood of breast cancer.
- Combined hormone replacement therapy: There is a correlation between having had combined hormone replacement therapy for menopause and developing breast cancer.
- Dense breast tissue: Women with heavy breasts are at a higher risk of developing the cancer and the increased density makes it more difficult to diagnose.
The good news is the number of deaths due to breast cancer has been on the decline since approximately 1990. This may be due to early detection and improved treatment options. As the saying goes “Offense is the best defense.” Following these prevention tips, having regular breast exams, and timely evaluation of any lump on the breast are your best weapons in the fight against breast cancer.
It’s breast cancer awareness month. Early detection can save a life, so remind your mothers, wives, daughters, family and friends to make an appointment for a mammogram today.