Black Women And Breast Cancer Screening
Some studies have shown that fewer Black women are screened and adequately treated, resulting in higher mortality rates.
Even with a prompt diagnosis, there are several barriers to health care, like:
- Lack of insurance
- Transportation challenges
- Financial strain
These are compounded by the wealth gap between Black and White families in the United States that can lead to delayed initiation of treatment. This can have wide-ranging and devastating consequences.
Still, research has also shown that Black women fare far worse than White women even when socioeconomic differences are accounted for. If you have any suspicion of breast cancer, seek immediate medical attention.
Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless, hard lump around the breast area or under the armpit. However, any type of lump, whether it’s soft, tender, or even painful, could be a cancerous mass.
That’s why it’s not always possible to distinguish cancerous from non-cancerous lumps without a clinical exam, imaging, or breast biopsy, says , Yale Medicine breast oncologist at the Yale Cancer Center. Therefore, it’s important to see a health care professional if you notice any changes in your breasts.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists no longer recommends people with average breast cancer risk regularly perform self-exams as there is no evidence doing so improves outcomes. However, many people may still want to routinely check their breasts for peace of mind or because they have a higher risk of breast cancer.
The Earliest Symptoms Of Breast Cancer Are Often Better Felt Than Seen
Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally. It afflicts both women and men. One of the most common cancers in women, it affects around 2.1 million women each year.
The earliest symptoms of breast cancer, however, are often better felt than seen, hence being aware of ones breast by regular examination by self or a clinician, can help detect sudden changes that warrant further investigation, says Dr Geeth Monnappa, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Fortis La Femme Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the doctor explains that although the emphasis has always been on the detection of lumps in the breast or armpit, one needs to know about other signs of cancer that need immediate attention. These are:
1. Change in the size or shape of the breast
Its common for breasts to swell and feel painful prior to a period. But if you notice a change in the size of one breast in particular, its probably best to consult your doctor about it.
2. Nipple discharge
Any discharge from the breast thats watery, bloody or milky, in a person who isnt breastfeeding, needs a complete evaluation.
3. Pulling in of the nipple
Although many people have flat or inverted nipples as a normal feature, if you notice that your nipples are pointing inwards instead of outward of late, consult your doctor.
4. Redness or flaky skin in the nipple or breast
5. Irritation or dimpling of the breast skin
Screening for early detection
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Breast Cancer Signs And Symptoms
Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is an important part of breast health. Although having regular screening tests for breast cancer is important, mammograms do not find every breast cancer. This means it’s also important for you to be aware of changes in your breasts and to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or round. They can even be painful. For this reason, it’s important to have any new breast mass, lump, or breast change checked by an experienced health care professional.
Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Swelling of all or part of a breast
- Skin dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened
- Nipple discharge
- Swollen lymph nodes
Although any of these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, if you have them, they should be reported to a health care professional so the cause can be found.
Remember that knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. Screening tests can help find breast cancer early, before any symptoms appear. Finding breast cancer early gives you a better chance of successful treatment.
Breast Or Nipple Pain
Breast cancer can cause changes in skin cells that lead to feelings of pain, tenderness, and discomfort in the breast. Although breast cancer is often painless, it is important not to ignore any signs or symptoms that could be due to breast cancer.
Some people may describe the pain as a burning sensation.
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How Do Health Care Professionals Determine Breast Cancer Staging
Staging is the process of determining the extent of the cancer and its spread in the body. Together with the type of cancer, staging is used to determine the appropriate therapy and to predict chances for survival.
To determine if the cancer has spread, several different imaging techniques can be used.
- Chest X-ray: It looks for spread of the cancer to the lung.
- Mammograms: More detailed and additional mammograms provide more images of the breast and may locate other abnormalities.
- MRI: Health care professionals use an MRI to further evaluate the breast or examine other parts of the body.
- Computerized tomography : These specialized X-rays look at different parts of your body to determine if the breast cancer has spread. It could include a CT of the brain, lungs, or any other area of concern.
- Bone scan: A bonescan determines if the cancer has spread to the bones. Low-level radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream, and over a few hours, images are taken to determine if there is uptake in certain bone areas, indicating metastasis.
- Positron emission tomography : Medical professionals inject a radioactive material that rapidly growing cells absorb preferentially. The PET scanner then locates these areas in your body.
A health care team uses this system to summarize in a standard way the extent and spread of the cancer. They use this staging to determine the treatment most appropriate for the type of cancer.
Men And Breast Cancer Warning Signs
Breast cancer isnt typically associated with people who were assigned male at birth. But male breast cancer can occur in rare instances at any age, although its more common in older men.
Many people dont realize that people assigned male at birth have breast tissue too, and those cells can undergo cancerous changes. Because male breast cells are much less developed than female breast cells, breast cancer isnt as common in this part of the population.
The most common symptom of breast cancer in people assigned male at birth is a lump in the breast tissue.
Other than a lump, symptoms of male breast cancer include:
- thickening of the breast tissue
- nipple discharge
- redness or scaling of the nipple
- a nipple that retracts or turns inward
- unexplained redness, swelling, skin irritation, itchiness, or rash on the breast
Most men dont regularly check their breast tissue for signs of lumps, so male breast cancer is often diagnosed much later.
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Change In Size Shape Or Feel Of Your Breast
A cancer might cause your breast to look bigger or have a different shape than usual, it might feel different.
Many healthy women find that their breasts feel lumpy and tender just before their period.
It can help to be breast aware. This means getting to know the size, shape and feel of your breasts.
Breast Cancer Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
Most breast cancer symptoms are discovered by women during regular dailyactivities like bathing. Knowing how your breasts look and feel, andbeing alert for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, like a lump,can help you detect the disease early, when it’s easiest to treat.
Most breast changes are due to hormonal cycles or conditions that are less worrying than breast cancer. However, if you experience any of the following breast cancer symptoms, even if they seem mild, see your doctor.
- A lump in the breast or armpit is the most common symptom of breast cancer. Patients often describe this as a ball or a nodule. Lumps may feel soft and rubbery or hard. Unless you have small breasts or the lump is very large, you probably wont be able to see it.
- Skin redness
- Nipple changes, including the nipple turning inward, pulling to one side or changing direction
- Ulcer on the breast or nipple
- Thickening of the skin, resulting in an orange-peel texture
Though rare, men can also get breast cancer. The most common symptoms of male breast cancer are a lump, discharge or dimpling.
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What Are Some General Signs And Symptoms Of Cancer
Most signs and symptoms are not caused by cancer but can be caused by other things. If you have any signs and symptoms that don’t go away or get worse, you should see a doctor to find out whats causing them. If cancer is not the cause, a doctor can help figure out what the cause is and treat it, if needed.
For instance, lymph nodes are part of the bodys immune system and help capture harmful substances in the body. Normal lymph nodes are tiny and can be hard to find. But when theres infection, inflammation, or cancer, the nodes can get larger. Those near the bodys surface can get big enough to feel with your fingers, and some can even be seen as swelling or a lump under the skin. One reason lymph nodes may swell is if cancer gets trapped there. So, if you have unusual swelling or a lump, you should see your doctor to figure out whats going on.
Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms that may be caused by cancer. However, any of these can be caused by other problems as well.
Sometimes, its possible to find cancer before you have symptoms. The American Cancer Society and other health groups recommend cancer-related check-ups and certain tests for people even though they have no symptoms. This helps find certain cancers early. You can find more information on early detection at the American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer.
Causes Of Breast Cancer
Doctors know that breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass. Cells may spread through your breast to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.
Researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that may increase your risk of breast cancer. But it’s not clear why some people who have no risk factors develop cancer, yet other people with risk factors never do.
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What Role Does The Brca Gene Test Have In Breast Cancer
The BRCA gene test analyses DNA to look for harmful mutations in two breast cancer genes . This test is performed as a routine blood test. The test should only be performed on patients who have specific types of breast cancers or have a family history suggesting the possibility of having an inherited mutation. These mutations are uncommon, and inherited BRCA gene mutations are responsible for about 10% of breast cancers.
Symptoms Of Angiosarcoma Of The Breast
Another rare form of breast cancer, angiosarcoma forms inside the lymph and blood vessels. Only a biopsy may definitively diagnose this type of cancer. Angiosarcoma can cause changes to the skin of your breast, such as the development of purple-colored nodules that resemble a bruise. These nodules, if bumped or scratched, may bleed. Over time, these discolored areas may expand, making your skin appear swollen in that area. You may or may not have breast lumps with angiosarcoma. If you also have lymphedema, which is swelling caused by a buildup of lymphatic fluid, angiosarcoma may occur in the affected arm. Cancer treatment sometimes damages the lymph vessels, which may lead to lymphedema.
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What Are Breast Cancer Risk Factors How Do You Get Breast Cancer
Several risk factors are inconclusive , while in other areas, the risk is being even more clearly defined .
The following are risk factors for breast cancer:
Looking Out For Breast Changes
As well as having your screening mammogram every two years, its important you regularly check your breasts for any changes.
Youll need to get to know the normal look and feel of your breasts, so that you can identify an unusual change. To check for changes, look at and feel your breasts regularly. Here are the signs to watch out for:
If youre aged 50-74, you should still have your regular screening mammogram in addition to checking your breasts – even if you feel ok and dont have any symptoms.
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Do Antiperspirants Or Deodorants Cause Breast Cancer
Research has shown that parabens can build up in breast tissues. However, this study did not show that parabens cause breast cancer or find a link between parabens and deodorant use.
A 2002 study did not show any increased risk for breast cancer in women using an underarm deodorant or antiperspirant. A 2003 study showed an earlier age for breast cancer diagnosis in women who shaved their underarms more frequently and used underarm deodorants.
We need more research to give us the answer about a relationship between breast cancer and underarm deodorants and blade shaving.
A Change In The Breast Or Nipple Appearance
- Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling anywhere on the breast
- Unexplained swelling of the breast
- Unexplained shrinkage of the breast
- Recent asymmetry of the breasts. Although it is common for women to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other, if the onset of asymmetry is recent, it should be checked.
- Nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted
- Skin of the breast, areola, or nipple that becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange
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Early Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
The most common sign of breast cancer that you may notice is a painless lump in your breast, potentially indicating a tumor. But at the time of diagnosis, most women dont have any apparent signs of breast cancer. Instead, its early signs are discovered on an imaging test. When the tumor is small in the early stages of breast cancer, its rarely noticeable to the touch or the naked eye. Thats why mammograms play an important role.
Mammograms may help detect a tumor in the breast long before its big enough to start causing symptoms and when the cancer is likely to be more easily treatable. Tumors may be as small as the tip of a pencil or as big as a lime . Mammograms are designed to spot tumors on the smaller end of the spectrum, when they cant yet be seen or felt. Regular mammograms are the most reliable way to catch breast cancer early, according to the American Cancer Society. But mammograms on their own cant catch every case of breast cancer, which is why its important to pay attention to changes in your breasts, because you know your body best.
Symptom of breast tumors vary from person to person. Some common, early warning signs of breast cancer include:
Is It Possible To Prevent Breast Cancer
There is no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer. Reviewing the risk factors and modifying the ones that can be altered can help in decreasing the risk.
Following the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for early detection can help early detection and treatment.
There are some subgroups of women that should consider additional preventive measures.
Women with a strong family history of breast cancer should be evaluated by genetic testing. This should be discussed with a health care provider and be preceded by a meeting with a genetic counselor who can explain what the testing can and cannot tell and then help interpret the results after testing.
Chemoprevention is the use of medications to reduce the risk of cancer. The two currently approved drugs for chemoprevention of breast cancer are tamoxifen and raloxifene , which also blocks the effect of estrogen on breast tissues. Their side effects and whether these medications are right for an individual need to be discussed with a health care provider.
Aromatase inhibitors are medications that block the production of small amounts of estrogen usually produced in postmenopausal women. They are being used to prevent reoccurrence of breast cancer but are not approved at this time for breast cancer chemoprevention.
For a small group of patients who have a very high risk of breast cancer, surgery to remove the breasts may be an option. Although this reduces the risk significantly, a small chance of developing cancer remains.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Breast pain can be a symptom of cancer. If you have any symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.
Some warning signs of breast cancer are
- New lump in the breast or underarm .
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer.
If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.