Signs You Have Breast Cancer, According to Experts
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. About 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer during her life.Although breast cancer mostly occurs among older women, in rare cases breast cancer does affect women under the age of 45. About 9% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age." A breast cancer diagnosis is a scary thing to hear, but with early detection and advanced treatments, it doesn't have to be a death sentence. Self-exams and awareness of symptoms are key to beating breast cancer and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Jane Mendez, Chief of Breast Surgery at Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida who explained signs to watch out for.
Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Mass (Lump or Bump)
Dr. Mendez says, "While breast cancer can commonly present as a mass, it's important to know that not all breast cancers present this way. By the same token, not all breast masses are cancerous. It's important to check for masses in the breast and in the area under the arm (the axilla)."
Changes in Appearance to the Breast
According to Dr. Mendez, "Breast cancer can present in different ways and often includes changes in the skin, asymmetry (or differences in the size of one breast compared to the other) and/or nipple discharge."
Other Signs to Be Aware Of
According to the American Cancer Society, any of the following unusual changes in the breast can be a symptom of breast cancer:
- "Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt)
- Skin dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking, or thickened
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
- Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or near the collarbone (Sometimes this can be a sign of breast cancer spread even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.)
How Cancer is More Treatable Today
Dr. Mendez shares, "Given all the technology and all the advances that we have available for breast cancer, we know that when breast cancer is detected early, we have a 98.5 percent survival rate. It is important to not delay in getting your screening studies performed, particularly mammograms, because we know that they save lives and improve prognosis through early detection."
How to Help Prevent Breast Cancer
Follow the screening guidelines:, sats Mendez: "At Miami Cancer Institute, we recommend women start getting a mammogram at age 40 and annually thereafter. Women with a known family history of breast cancer or a known genetic predisposition should have a conversation with their primary care provider to see if earlier testing is recommended. If the patient has a family history, we usually recommend that she be screened 10 years before the age at which the first-degree relative was diagnosed for breast cancer. As we age, it's even more important to be screened annually, because there's increased likelihood of detecting breast cancer. Mammograms are the gold standard for breast cancer screening and save lives in all women, specifically in women ages 40-45.
Know your family history: You can't change your family history but you can and should be aware of it and make sure you share that information with your physician. There are many genetic mutations associated with the disease, including PALB2, but BRCA1 or BRCA2 are the most prevalent, so if you're a carrier of either of those genes, you definitely have an increased risk.
Know Your Body: We know that early detection leads to better outcomes, so keep up with your annual mammograms and your monthly self-exams. If you notice something, don't delay – get it checked as soon as possible."
How to Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer
Dr. Mendez reveals, "You can reduce your risk of breast cancer. Watch the weight gain, especially in this pandemic. We know that obesity is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Interestingly, estrogen deposits itself in the adipose tissue or fat cells, so the more adipose tissue we have and the farther we are from our ideal body weight, the higher the estrogen levels and the higher the possibility of developing breast cancer. There are no perfect diet plans but the most important thing is to maintain healthy eating habits. Be conscious of the quality of the food you eat and how you prepare it, with the emphasis on light and healthy. The key word is moderation – in how you prepare the foods, and the quantities you eat.
Moderation also applies to alcohol consumption. Watch what you drink and how much you drink. Red wines have phenolic acids which are thought to protect against breast cancer, so if you're going to drink something, a glass of red wine may be helpful.
Regular exercise can also help protect against breast cancer and other disease processes. Remember, you don't have to go to a gym to get your exercise. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle, be more cognizant of moving about and find ways to get your heart rate up every day – walking, running or any type of aerobic exercise.
Last, while smoking has no direct link to breast cancer, it is associated with lung cancer, which is the number one cause of cancer mortality in women, so I advise patients to refrain from smoking as part of a healthy lifestyle."