The processes of puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause result in unique changes in your breasts. These changes sometimes cause problems with your breasts, although usually minor. However, properly performed monthly self breast exams and regular visits to the doctor will improve detection of problems that might not be so minor, and can save your life.
WHAT ARE THE BREAST PROBLEMS THAT WOMEN MAY DEVELOP?
Benign Breast Problems: Most growths in the breasts are benign, meaning they are not cancerous. Usually, these lumps are caused by fibrocystic changes, which often occur at times when your hormone levels are changing. Fibrocystic changes cause lumpy breasts that are tender and cystic. Cysts are small sacs filled with fluid, and occur most often between the ages of 25-50. Usually, fibrocystic changes occur before your period when hormone levels cause the fibrous tissues to swell. Also, they may occur after menopause if you start hormone replacement therapy. Some studies suggest that eliminating caffeine intake and taking birth control pills will reduce breast pain. Another benign problem in breasts are fibro adenomas, which are solid and noncancerous.
Breast Cancer: Breast cancer is a very serious illness that is caused by a malignant growth in one or both breasts. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women ages 34-50.
HOW CAN BREAST LUMPS BE FOUND?
Breast screenings are very efficient ways for women to find breast lumps. There are three different ways of breast screening that may be done by you or your doctor:
WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT INCREASE THE RISK OF BREAST CANCER?
There are several different factors that increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Over 85% of cases are found in women 40+ years old. Other risks include menarche (when a girl has her first period), late pregnancy, and late menopause. Family history of breast cancer in a patient, sibling or offspring is a substantial risk factor. Obesity is also another factor.
However, there are several factors that decrease your risk of breast cancer. This includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For instance, exercising frequently and eating a low fat diet. Also, your risk of developing breast cancer is reduced if you had a pregnancy before the age of 30. Women who experience an early menopause have a lower risk of estrogen-related breast cancer but have a higher risk of osteoporotic fracture.
HOW CAN I PERFORM A SELF-BREAST EXAM?
Performing a self-breast exam is a quick, easy way to maintain your health. It can be performed in a few easy steps: