Because breast cancer is so prevalent, there are lots of components to it the public needs to know. Just to name a few, these include: symptoms, prevention tips, when to be tested, and treatment options.
Although the month of October (which serves as Breast Cancer Awareness Month) is all but over—it’s never too late to become aware of the ins and outs of breast cancer. Thus, The Chronicle has gleaned some context for all of the aforementioned points for consideration.
Symptoms to look for
• A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue;
• change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast;
• changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling;
• a newly inverted nipple;
• peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin;
• and redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange.
How to prevent breast cancer
Making changes in your daily life may help reduce your risk of breast cancer. These include:
• Becoming familiar with your breasts through breast self-exam for breast awareness. Women may choose to become familiar with their breasts by occasionally inspecting their breasts during a breast self-exam for breast awareness. If there is a new change, lumps or other unusual signs in your breasts, talk to your doctor promptly.
Breast awareness can’t prevent breast cancer, but it may help you to better understand the normal changes that your breasts undergo and identify any unusual signs and symptoms.
• Exercising most days of the week. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. If you haven’t been active lately, ask your doctor whether it’s OK and start slowly.
• Limiting postmenopausal hormone therapy. Combination hormone therapy may increase the risk of breast cancer. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of hormone therapy.
Some women experience bothersome signs and symptoms during menopause and, for these women, the increased risk of breast cancer may be acceptable in order to relieve menopause signs and symptoms.
• Maintaining a healthy weight. If your weight is healthy, work to maintain that weight. If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy strategies to accomplish this. Reduce the number of calories you eat each day and slowly increase the amount of exercise.
How to know it’s time to see a doctor
Don’t overthink or overcomplicate matters if you feel you need a visit to your physician. If you find a lump or other change in your breast—even if a recent mammogram was normal—make an appointment with your doctor for prompt evaluation.
Your treatment options
Your doctor determines your breast cancer treatment options based on your type of breast cancer, its stage and grade, size, and whether the cancer cells are sensitive to hormones. Your doctor also considers your overall health and your own preferences.
Most women undergo surgery for breast cancer and many also receive additional treatment after surgery, such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy or radiation. Chemotherapy might also be used before surgery in certain situations.
There are many options for breast cancer treatment, and you may feel overwhelmed as you make complex decisions about your treatment. Consider seeking a second opinion from a breast specialist in a breast center or clinic. Talk to other women who have faced the same decision.