The human breast is composed of milk producing sacs and channels which drain to the nipple. Breast cancer is an abnormal growth of cells within the breast and is referred to as a malignant tumor.
Factors that contribute to the risk of developing breast cancer and the poorer outcomes of women with the disease are not completely understood.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Breast Cancer?
|Risk Factor||Effect on Developing Breast Cancer|
|Gender||Simply being a woman puts you at risk. Breast cancer is 100 times more common among women than men.|
|Age||Yes. Your chances of developing breast cancer increase greatly after the age of 40. 67% of breast cancers are found in women over the age of 50. 50% of women who get breast cancer have no identifiable risk factor beyond gender and age.|
|Hereditary / Genetic Factors||Only 1-5% of breast cancer is hereditary, but there is definitely an increased risk among women whose close relatives have had breast cancer. Women who are diagnosed at an earlier age are more likely to have a hereditary basis to their cancer.|
|Age of Menstruation||Beginning to menstruate early.|
|Age of Menopause||Entering menopause after age 51.|
|Age of first child||Waiting until after age 30 to have your first child.|
|Parity||Not having any children.|
Are there preventative measures?
The American Cancer Society recommends a three-step plan for early detection and preventive care. These can help lower the chances of developing breast cancer.
The plan includes:
• Monthly breast self-examinations
• An annual check-up by a doctor or trained nurse
• Mammography according to your age and the recommendation of your doctor.
How is a mammogram done?
A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray picture of the breast and is one of the most common imaging techniques done today. The x-ray is taken while the breast is compressed between two plastic plates. Behind one plate is the source of the x-rays. The x-rays travel through the breast and the other plate to hit a film screen behind the x-ray plate. They procedure is not painful or harmful. The compression of the breast may cause a slight discomfort.
Mammograms are important because they can detect cancer before a lump becomes large enough to be felt. They can also assist in the diagnosis of other breast problems such as cysts.