October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here Are the Signs to Watch For

According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%.

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According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. It is the most common cancer among American women.

In 2021 alone, an estimated of over 280,000 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. as well as 49,290 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. Approximately 30% of all new women cancer diagnoses will be breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%.

The majority of deaths occur in low- and middle-income families, where most women with breast cancer are diagnosed in late stages. This is mostly due to a lack of awareness on early detection and potential barriers to access certain health services.

Many breast cancer symptoms are invisible and hard to notice without a professional screening, but professionals recommend a monthly breast self-exam to identify any changes.

Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump.

What are the symptoms and signs of breast

  • A change in how the breast or nipple looks or feels
  • A change in the breast or nipple appearance
  • Any type of nipple discharge—particularly clear discharge or bloody discharge
  • Skin irritation, such as redness, thickening or dimpling of the skin
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit

Every person should know the symptoms and signs of breast cancer, and any time an abnormality is discovered, it should be looked at by a healthcare professional.

The American Cancer Society’s recommendations for early detection of breast cancer for women of average risk include:

  • Ages 40-44: Women should have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
  • Ages 45-54: Women should get a mammogram every year.
  • Women age 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year or choose to continue annual mammograms.

All women should understand what to expect when getting a mammogram for breast cancer screening – what the test can and cannot do.

What are the early signs of metastatic breast cancer?

Metastatic breast cancer (also called stage IV) is breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body, most commonly the liver, brain, bones, or lungs.

  • According to breastcancer.org, the most common symptom of breast cancer that has spread to the bone is a sudden, noticeable new pain. Breast cancer can spread to any bone, but most often spreads to the ribs, spine, pelvis, or the long bones in the arms and legs.
  • When breast cancer moves into the lung, it often doesn’t cause many symptoms. If a lung metastasis does cause noticeable symptoms, it may include pain or discomfort in the lung, shortness of breath, and a persistent cough.
  • Symptoms of breast cancer that has spread to the brain can include headache, changes in speech or vision, memory problems, and others.
  • When breast cancer spreads to the liver, it often doesn’t cause many noticeable symptoms. If a liver metastasis does cause symptoms, it can include pain or discomfort in the mid-section, fatigue, weight loss or poor appetite, and fever.

There are a wide variety of treatment options for metastatic breast cancer, and new medicines are being tested every day.

Although there is no sure way to fully prevent breast cancer, it is highly recommended from the National Breast Cancer Foundation to do these things to lower your risk:

  • Staying physically active: Physical activity is linked with lowering breast cancer risk.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Both increased body weight and weight gain as an adult is linked with a higher risk of developing breast cancer after menopause.
  • Do not smoke: Smoking has shown a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women.
  • Eating fruits and vegetables: Many studies have suggested that a diet high in vegetables and fruit, and low in red meat, can lower the risk of breast cancer.
  • Limiting alcohol intake: Even small amounts of alcohol have been linked with an increased risk.

For more information on breast cancer early detection, risk factors, treatment, recovery or free patient support, call the American Cancer Society anytime at 800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

For more information on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please visit nationalbreastcenter.org.

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