Breast Cancer 101 – What You Should Know
November 17, 2012

Understanding Breast Cancer Is The First Step Towards Prevention

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

What is breast cancer?

The National institute of Health (NIH) describes breast cancer as a cancer that begins in the breast´s tissue. Ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma are the two main types of cancer, affecting the part of the breast that moves the milk from the breast to the nipple or the portion of the breast that produces milk.

Apart from understanding the areas in which breast cancer affects, it´s important to understand the risk factors associated with the disease. Risk factors that cannot be changed include an individual´s age and gender, genetic makeup, past family history of breast cancer, as well as menstrual cycle. However, other risk factors that can be adjusted are based on an individual´s lifestyle, including things like alcohol consumption and exposure to radiation.

For individuals who are concerned about breast cancer, there are a number of symptoms that can hint at the possibility of the disease. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the most common symptom related to breast cancer is the formation of a new lump or mass. The mass should be checked out by a health professional that is knowledgeable on diagnosing breast disease. Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include signs such as breast or nipple pain, nipple discharge, nipple retraction, swelling of the breast, skin irritation, or redness of the nipple´s skin. Possible tests to diagnose breast disease include a mammogram, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast, a breast ultrasound, a ductogram, a nipple discharge exam, and a ductal lavage and nipple aspiration.

How can I prevent breast cancer?

The Mayo Clinic provides a number of recommendations in terms of preventing the development of breast cancer. The main tip is to make changes in daily lifestyle. This includes limiting consumption of alcohol, participating in physical activity on a daily basis, limiting postmenopausal hormone therapy and maintaining a healthy weight.

Where can I find more resources?

Susan G. Komen provides a comprehensive list of resources for individuals who want to learn more about breast cancer. There are online resources that help people understand breast cancer topics like risk factors and prevention, early detection and screening, and treatment. As well, there is a section of interactive tools that cover topics like healthy lifestyle, special populations, as well as survivorship and recurrence. For individuals who have friends or family members whose first language is not English, the resources portion of the website even provides educational materials available in different languages. The materials are culturally appropriate and written in plain language.