Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer to affect women, being the second most common. More than 270,000 women were reported in 2020 to have been diagnosed with a form of breast cancer, which is approximately 1 in 8 women in the US. This is an increase from the estimated 250,000 cases in 2017, where an estimated 42,000 women died from it. Women of all races develop breast cancer at about the same rate, but African American women have a higher death rate from the disease.
Risk Factors of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is caused by a combination of factors that influence risk factors. Factors such as genetics, age, and lifestyle can contribute to acquiring the disease. Some women have a higher risk than others, while in some cases, women who acquire breast cancer exhibit none of the risk factors. This is why it is not certain what the actual cause of breast cancer is.
Below are the common risk factors that cannot be controlled:
Women above the age of 50 are vulnerable to the risk of breast cancer. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer come from this age range.
- Genetics and Family History
Inherited genetic mutations in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 present the risk of this type of cancer. Aside from the risk of breast cancer, these genetic mutations also put women at a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
A woman is also at higher risk if breast cancer is present in the family history either manifested in their mother, sister, or daughter or multiple relatives on either side of the family.
- Reproductive History
Women with early menstrual periods that manifest before the average age of 12 and reach menopause at the age of 55 are exposed to hormones longer. This raises the risk of acquiring breast cancer.
- Born with naturally dense breasts
Women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer, having breasts with less fatty tissue and more connective tissues. This makes it difficult at times to detect tumors during a mammogram.
- Having battled breast-related diseases before
Women with a personal history of breast cancer or non-cancerous breast disease are at high risk. Having a history of non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma are factors that can lead to breast cancer. Those who have had breast cancer before have a chance to develop it a second time.
Radiation therapy treatment for the previously acquired breast cancer or other cancers such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma might cause a woman to develop cancer again later in life if she had received this treatment before the age of 30.
Below are the Risk Factors that are controllable, situational, and environmental:
- Lifestyle habits
Women who are not physically active are at higher risk of acquiring breast cancer. Lacking a balanced diet can also put women at risk, especially if they become overweight or obese after menopause. Being at a much older age in an unhealthy weight has a higher risk than those of normal weight.
- Pregnancy History
Women who had their first pregnancy after the age of 30, have not breastfed, or did not have a full-term pregnancy can be a risk factor in acquiring breast cancer.
- Unhealthy Vices and Habits
Women who tend to drink an excess of alcohol and have a smoking habit may increase breast cancer risk. In fact, simply being exposed to chemicals found in tobacco can increase risk.
Changes in hormones due to working a stressful night shift may also increase risk.
Stages of Breast Cancer
This is the stage where there are no detectable cancer cells visible yet. People who are most at risk but are most likely to develop it may not be manifesting it yet.
There are two substages of this stage when the disease begins manifesting, attacking the healthy tissue.
Stage IA is when the cancer spreads to the fatty breast tissue. The tumor may not be prevalent yet or is still at the size of a shelled peanut.
Stage IB is when cancer cells are found present in lymph nodes in small amounts.
This is the stage where the cancer begins growing or spreading. There are also two substages to this.
Stage IIA is when the breast tumor is small or non-existent. Cancer in the lymph nodes may be non-existent or may have spread to as much as three.
Stage IIB is when the cancerous tumor is as big as a lime and is more prominent. This may or may not be in the lymph nodes.
Stage III is when the cancer becomes more alarming, with the tumor being more than two inches in diameter. While this may be difficult to treat, there is still a chance of battling it as the cancer has not yet spread in the bones and organs.
Stage IIIA means that there are at least nine lymph nodes affected. Stage IIIB is when the cancerous tumor has developed in the skin around the breast. Stage IIIC is when the cancer has manifested in 10 or more lymph nodes.
This is the crucial stage when breast cancer has manifested in more distant areas of the body. This includes parts in the lungs, bones, liver, lungs, and brain. The survival rate at this stage is very low.
Prevention and Treatment
Since many of the risk factors are uncontrollable, the best preventative measure is to get breast examinations regularly. Women in the age range below 40 can have an exam once every three years, at least. Women at high risk and above age 40 should have an exam yearly. You can also perform a self-examination at home.
When you detect signs of breast cancer, visit a doctor to confirm the diagnosis. Those who need treatment can visit New Hope Medical Center, where they can receive alternative treatments that can help reduce the risks of breast cancer symptoms. Contact us now to find out more.