This article was originally written by Anne Wolski
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Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women and the leading cause of cancer deaths.
Every woman’s breasts are different so it is important for each individual woman to be familiar with her breasts in order to recognize any peculiarities.
Unfortunately, the early stages of breast cancer may not have any symptoms. This is why it is important to follow screening recommendations. As a tumor grows in size, it can produce a variety of symptoms including:
* lump or thickening in the breast or underarm * change in size or shape of the breast * nipple discharge or nipple turning inward * redness or scaling of the skin or nipple * ridges or pitting of the breast skin
If you experience these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer, but you need to be examined by a doctor.
Breast cancer is very rare before age 20 and is rarely diagnosed in women younger than age 25. Past that age, the incidence rises steadily to reach a peak around the age of menopause. The rate of increase is lessened after menopause, but older women are still at increasing risk over time.
Although a specific cause for breast cancer has not been identified, there are risk factors that increase the likelihood that a woman will develop a breast cancer. These risks include:
* Maternal relative with breast cancer. * Women who start their menstruation early and/or go into early menopause, increasing the length of reproductive years, are at greater risk. * Obesity. Women who are overweight are at increased risk * Women who have never had children are at greater risk. * Women who had their first child over age 30 are at greater risk. * Previous breast cancer. * Previous endometrial cancer.
Aside from the genetic predisposition, the common factor in many of these risks is increased endogenous estrogen exposure over a long time.
It is recommended that women over 35 check their breasts monthly. However, it is also important that all women do regular breast checks. Your doctor can show you how to effectively check your breasts. Any lump, regardless of size, should be reported to your doctor. Many of these lumps are simply fatty lumps or cysts but it is far better to be safe than sorry.
Catching breast cancer early makes a big difference in the type of treatment needed as well as the overall prognosis.
Copyright 2005 Anne Wolski