Screening for Breast Cancer: Identifying the Warning Signs

Every October, events around the world are organized to promote breast cancer awareness and to raise money for breast cancer research. The pink ribbon continues to be the symbol of support for women with breast cancer — and for good reason. Not including some kinds of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and is the second most common cause of cancer-related death among women.

The thought of breast cancer is scary and understanding the ins and outs of getting mammograms can be confusing. Part of our mission at Robin Care is to raise cancer prevention awareness and to simplify the often complex information, so you can learn how to protect yourself.

Breast Cancer is not a single disease

Though the term breast cancer is often used as an all-encompassing type of cancer, it’s not just one disease. Breast cancer can be either invasive — when cancer spreads into surrounding tissues, or noninvasive — when cancer doesn’t go beyond the milk ducts or lobules of the breast. Most breast cancers start in the ducts or lobes and are called either ductal carcinoma or lobular carcinoma, respectively

Ductal carcinoma: This cancer starts in the cells lining the milk ducts and make up the majority of breast cancers.

Lobular carcinoma: This is cancer that starts in the lobules, a gland that makes milk.

There are three main subtypes of breast cancer that can be determined by specific tests.

 

  • Hormone receptor-positive: This is the most common type and accounts for about 60% to 75% of breast cancers.
  • HER2-positive: The second most common type of breast cancer, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) positive, makes up about 20-25% of breast cancers.
  • Triple-negative: If a tumor does not express estrogen or progesterone receptors or HER2, the tumor is called “triple-negative.” This type of breast cancer makes up only about 15% of invasive breast cancers.

 

These tests will help your doctor determine which type of cancer you have, so they can recommend the most effective treatment plan.

What is a prophylactic mastectomy and who should consider getting one?

For women with certain genetic mutations that substantially increase the risk for breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2), a prophylactic mastectomy may be considered. This preventive removal of the one or both breasts reduces the risk of developing breast cancer by at least 95%.

How can I protect myself from breast cancer?

If diagnosed early and treated before it spreads, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99%. Some cancer risk factors – like smoking – are controllable. Other cancer risk factors – like genetics – are not. Knowing the risk factors for breast cancer, methods to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, and which symptoms to report are important steps to take in order to detect the early warning signs of breast cancer. For easy to understand tips, here is a great resource from the Prevent Cancer Foundation: Breast Cancer Prevention

Part of taking good care of yourself is making choices that help reduce or prevent your cancer risk. With breast cancer affecting millions of people a year, it’s important that you begin prevention now.

  • October 19, 2017