The spookiest month of the year reminds us of one of the scariest diseases around – breast cancer. Recognizing the signs and getting diagnosed early can mean the difference between life and death.
You may be aware of the statistic that in 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. But how many will overcome it?
The numbers are based on a 5-year survival rate, which tell us what percent of people live at 5 years after the cancer is diagnosed.
According to the American Cancer Society, when diagnosed early enough to only be in the breast, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%. Approximately 62% of cases are diagnosed at this stage. If the cancer has spread to local lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate declines to 85%. Once the cancer has spread further, the 5-year survival rate is as low as 27%.
To help ensure early detection, the American Cancer Society recommends that women get mammograms annually between the ages of 45 and 54, decreasing to every other year for ages 55+.
Recognizing the 7 signs of breast cancer can help you get treatment early. Keep in mind that each body is different and getting regular checkups is the best early detection for breast cancer.
The Seven Signs:
1. Swollen, red breasts
Swelling, pain or redness of breast tissue can be the cause of inflammatory breast cancer or of a cancerous mass that is pushing on breast tissue, which is causing the swelling.
2. Feeling a swelling or lump in your underarm area
Any lump should be evaluated by a doctor whether it be in the breast or under the armpit. Dimpling of the breast suggests a tumor pulling at the skin.
If you feel a lump which is hard and doesn’t move in your armpit area, it may be a tumor. Areas such as the armpits or around the collar bone have lymph nodes where the breasts’ lymphatic fluid drains. However, be aware that they do swell when you get sick. Once you you get over a cold, check again. If the lumps persist, get them checked out by your OB/GYN.
3.Your nipples may look different or feel sensitive
If your nipple is not pointing in the same direction that it usually does, changes in color or produces discharge, there may be a tumor present. Cancerous mass is commonly found underneath the nipple, so, this is not a sign to readily write off. It’s a good idea to pay your doctor a visit and discuss your observations with them.
Redness of the breast or skin changes on the nipple should be evaluated.
A difference in the shape of the breast especially a change in appearance from the left and right should be checked.
4. Chest or breast pain
When experiencing any sort of new pain in these areas, take note of it. When a lump is present, it pushes against the skin and can cause pain.
5. Pain in chest, shoulders or upper back
What you think is ‘muscle pain’ may be bone pain in disguise. Breast cancer that spreads to the bone decreases chances of survival severely. If this pain is persistent and doesn’t subside, it is best to schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately.
6. Breast size, shape or appearance may change
If your breasts look different, cancerous tissue may be present underneath.
7. Itching sensation in breasts
If the skin on or around your breasts feels itchy, it may be related to lymphatic breast cancer. Because this form of breast cancer is more aggressive, it is best that you go to your doctor as soon as you notice this and especially if you’re noticing the color of your skin changing in the affected area.
Some individuals avoid getting their symptoms checked because they fear getting the news that they have breast cancer. However, that won’t make the cancer disappear. Early detection of breast cancer can make your chances of survival much better. In fact, with modern treatments for breast cancer women are doing better than ever.
Even if you are up to date with your mammogram if you notice any breast changes it is worth seeing your doctor to check it out.
Call us today at 631.587.2500 to schedule your screening.