Updated: Oct 26, 2021
by Annita M. Taylor, MBA, MSN, APRN, ANP
We hear about it. We are all affected by it whether directly or indirectly. What is it? Breast Cancer- one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. A disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in and invade the "good" breast tissue. Despite popular belief, although men are not diagnosed with breast cancer at such alarming rates as women, breast cancer occurs in both women and men.
Breast swelling, change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid discharge from the nipple, and/or red flaky itchy skin around the nipple-the areola (Paget's Disease) may all present as signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
There is no isolated cause of breast cancer; however, certain risk factors may play a role in its development both genetic and/or environmental. These factors can be summed up to:
· Race- although white women are more likely to develop breast cancer, Black women
have a higher mortality rate
· Being overweight or obese
· Family history
· Personal medical history
· Lifestyle and diet (how much physical activity you get in such as exercise)
· Drinking alcohol
· Radiation exposure
· Age you began menstruating (menarche)
· Hormone replacement therapy during menopause
· breast density
(for full details, visit Risk Factors - National Breast Cancer Foundation)
It is OK to explore your body! The more we know our bodies, the easier it is to identify an abnormality. Get in the habit of performing breast self-exams (see video). As you perform your in-home breast self-exam look and feel for any lumps in your chest are above your breast, breast themselves, and under your arms. Observe for any changes in shape or size. Check for discharge from your nipples or any pulling inward of the nipple. Also, remember to check the skin surrounding your nipples (the areola) for changes in the texture or color.
Although the breast self-exam is highly recommended, it is not a substitute for diagnostic screenings such as a mammogram. According to the USPSTF recommendations, women ages 50-74 are at average risk for breast cancer and should have a mammogram performed every two years. If you are 40-49 years old or have a family history of breast cancer, speak with your healthcare provider about when you should have your first mammogram.
Stay safe, informed, and healthy!
NP A.M. Taylor