October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Bay Area Family Physicians is here to provide you with the information you need to stay informed and healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. However, significant progress has been made in early detection and treatment, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, as well as the risk factors.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast. However, keep in mind that not all lumps are cancerous; benign lumps are very common. Other potential symptoms include:
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- A change in the feel of the breast or nipple, such as dimpling or puckering
- Nipple discharge that is new and spontaneous (not associated with nursing)
- A new onset of nipple pain or tenderness
- A new rash or crusting on the nipple or breast skin
- Swelling of the entire breast, or a localized area
If you experience any of these symptoms, please schedule an appointment with your Bay Area Family Physicians provider right away.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
There are many possible risk factors for developing breast cancer. Some risk factors, like age and family history, cannot be changed. However, there are some lifestyle choices that may impact your risk:
- Drinking alcohol – The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk
- Diet – A diet high in saturated fats may increase your risk
- Exercise – Regular exercise may decrease your risk by as much as 30-40%
- Hormone replacement therapy – Taking estrogen and progesterone after menopause may increase your risk
- Obesity – Being overweight or obese after menopause also increases risk
If you have any questions about how to lower your risk factor for developing breast cancer, please talk to your provider during your next visit.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time to educate yourself about this disease and how to protect yourself from it. Please remember to scheduling regular mammograms starting at age 40, as well as perform monthly self-breast exams. And if you experience any changes in your breasts that last longer than 2 weeks, please make an appointment with us right away so we can help you determine if further testing is necessary.