What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a tumor, or cluster of abnormal cells, found in the breast tissue of women, but in rare cases it can affect men as well. Breast cancer is the number two leading cause of cancer in women, second only to skin cancer.
Are All Breast Tumors Cancer? Not all breast tumors are cancerous. Most breast tumors are benign, although they are abnormal cells, they will not spread and are not life threatening. Most breast lumps are caused by fluid filled sacs called cysts. These cysts may or may not be painful and cause the breast to feel lumpy. The only way to know for sure if a breast lump is cancerous is to have it biopsied, or tested by your physician.
Reduce your Risk Although breast cancer is not preventable, it is important to know how to minimize your risk of getting the disease.
• If you smoke, quit and stay away from tobacco smoke
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Exercise regularly
• Consume a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains
• Limit alcohol consumption
• Always use sunscreen when outdoors
• Know your family disease history and personal disease history
• Have regular check-ups with your physician and follow the recommended breast cancer screening guidelines
Breast Cancer Screening All women in their 20’s should begin monthly self breast exams to become familiar with their breasts so they can recognize changes. Women in their 20’s and 30’s should have a clinical breast exam by a physical every 3 years and women in their 40’s and beyond should have one yearly. Beginning at age 40, (your physician may recommend an alternative age based on family history) women should begin yearly mammograms.
For more information: The American Cancer Society www.cancer.org The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov The National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov