Breast Cancer Awareness: Facts, Risk Factors, and Prevention

Breast cancer is a concerning medical problem that impacts the lives of a considerable number of individuals in the United States each year. Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, now is a great time to become more educated on the risk factors of this health condition, in addition to preventions and how it's treated.

Breast cancer, like all forms of cancer, develops when groups of cells start to divide irregularly and exceedingly, rather than undergoing their normal life span and biological mechanisms. Much of the time, breast cancer begins in the milk-yielding ducts when DNA in these cells begins to transform. In cases where altered cells develop faster than the body can dispose of them, the mass of cells forms a tumor.

Tumors in the breast can form in various parts of glandular tissue, along with the fat (adipose) tissue that surrounds and shields the milk-secreting structures of the breast. In rare cases, breast cancers can even spread to other structures within the body, including the gastric tract. In those situations, the gastrointestinal (GI) specialists at San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates work closely with other medical experts and specialists throughout San Antonio, TX to handle any cancers that metastasize to the digestive system. Getting an early breast cancer diagnosis is key to protecting your general health and wellness.

Breast cancer risk factors

Breast cancer is among the most widespread types of cancer affecting women. In fact, one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with the condition during their lives. Experts anticipate that over 280,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer throughout 2021, and approximately 50,000 women will receive a noninvasive carcinoma in situ breast cancer diagnosis.

The largest number of women who develop breast cancer are older than 55; however, breast cancer ranks among the main causes of death among women between the ages of 35 and 55. Non-Hispanic African American women and non-Hispanic white women are the most likely to get cancer of the breast, but Latina women and African American women have the highest risk of dying as a result of this type of cancer.

Genetic predisposition also poses a greater risk for this type of cancer. Individuals with relatives who have had cancer of the breast are more likely to develop the disease over the course of their lives. Although being a woman, of senior age, or hereditary factors can’t be modified, there are numerous things that can be done to help prevent or reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

Some other factors that may elevate the chance of developing breast cancer include:

  • Breastfeeding for less than a year

  • Use of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

  • Being overweight

  • Unhealthy eating habits

  • Chemical contraception and other forms of hormone intake

  • Inadequate amounts of vitamin D

  • Pregnancy over the age of 30

  • Drinking alcohol

  • Smoking

  • Radiation treatment before age 30

  • Lack of exercise

Improving your lifestyle in addition to regularly receiving breast exams can help lessen your risk of getting breast cancer, especially if any of the factors listed above apply to you.

What should I know about the different types of breast cancer?

Cancer of the breast can be diagnosed as malignant (invasive) or noninvasive carcinoma in situ. Cancers noninvasive in nature are groupings of cells that tend to grow in one area, reproducing abnormally but not mutating outside of their principal functions in other ways. These cell groupings can often be taken out through a surgical procedure and are not as likely to return.

Malignant forms of cancer present a more dangerous health concern, as they spread strings of cells into the adjacent area, sometimes even breaking off pieces of themselves and moving to other parts of the body. Malignant cancers might also produce and release noxious hormones and other factors that adversely impact a person's health.

The various types of breast cancer include:

  • Angiosarcoma: This rare type of cancer begins in skin, lymph vessels, or blood vessels.

  • Paget disease of the nipple: This is cancer that starts in the areola or nipple.

  • Phyllodes tumors: These non-malignant tumors originate in connective tissue structures.

  • Ductal carcinoma: Starting in the milk ducts, ductal carcinoma can be invasive, spreading beyond the mild duct and invading other portions of the breast. This form of cancer can also be in situ, which means it stays in the milk ducts. If diagnosed early enough, in situ carcinomas are often easy to treat, although they may become malignant without medical care. It is important to note that approximately 80% of breast cancers involve invasive ductal carcinomas.

  • Lobular carcinoma: This form of breast cancer originates in the lobular areas of the milk-producing glands. When this type of tumor is in situ, it is the least dangerous form of breast cancer because it is not likely to metastasize. Even still, it should be treated as specified by a physician since it could signify the possibility of other tumors developing in the future. When lobular carcinomas are invasive, they become more detrimental and can be especially difficult to diagnose.

The importance of routine breast cancer screenings

The recommended way to prevent breast cancer, apart from living an active, healthy lifestyle, is to undergo screenings for breast cancer on a regular basis. Breast cancer screenings often include a clinical evaluation followed by a mammogram, or radiographic imaging of the breast tissue designed to detect overly dense breast tissue. Regular breast exams are exceptionally crucial for catching breast carcinomas in the early stages and enabling the greatest treatment outcomes. You can also conduct a breast cancer self-exam and should do so on a regular basis. A doctor can provide instructions on how to perform this exam in the proper manner.

Plan your breast cancer screening

The staff at San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates are proud to observe National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and encourage patients in San Antonio, TX to help protect their overall health by scheduling regular examinations for breast cancer. For the most effective methods of diagnosing the condition and the best chance of protecting your health, it is important to have routine breast cancer screenings performed by a trusted physician.