Breast Cancer Information and Early Detection Tips for Women Ages 40 to 49
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER?
Cancers are a group of diseases that cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Most types of cancer cells form a lump or mass called a tumor and are named after the part of the body where the tumor orignates. Therefore, breast cancer begins in the breast, which consists of glands for milk production called lobules, and the ducts that connect the lobules to the nipple. The remainder of the breast is made up of fatty, connective, and lymphatic tissue.
*Illustration taken from Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book.
Most women are not aware of the fact that age itself is a risk factor for breast cancer and after age 40 your risk for the disease increases significantly, from one in 217 at age 40 to one in 50 at age 50. Eighty percent of women who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Women in this age group who are at a higher than average risk for developing breast cancer include those:
According to the National Cancer Institute, doctors cannot always explain why one person develops breast cancer and another doesn't. However, scientists have studied general patterns of cancer in the population to learn what things around us and what things we do in our lives may increase our chance of developing cancer. Some of these so-called risk factors can be controlled (such as our eating and exercise habits), while others cannot (such as our family history and genetic makeup). So although there is no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer there are some things you can do now that may help reduce your risk:
Early detection of breast cancer saves lives. When breast cancer is found and treated early (while in stage 1 or 2 in which it has not spread beyond the breast), the five-year survival rate is approximately 98 percent. For women between the ages of 40 and 49, a combination of monthly breast self-exams, yearly clinical breast exams, and annual mammograms is the best way to detect breast cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages.
Breast Self-Exam (BSE):
Clinical Breast Exam (CBE):
Be sure to ask your health care provider to perform a clinical breast exam each year. During the exam, your health care provider will check your breasts for any changes, lumps or other warning signs of breast cancer.
All women should have routine, annual mammograms beginning at age 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer or a personal history of benign breast lumps or breast cancer you may have received a mammogram earlier than this.THE SYMPTOMS
Breast cancer is often detected in its earliest stage as an abnormality on a mammogram, well before it can be felt by the woman or by her health care provider. If a cancer has grown to the point where physical signs and symptoms are present, you may notice the following:
Breast pain is very commonly due to benign conditions and usually is not a symptom of breast cancer.
Regardless of your age, if you experience any of the above symptoms, see your health care provider immediately.
Information courtesy of the American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures, 2005-2006