Is Your Family at Risk for Breast Cancer?

family lifestyle portraitIt is estimated that 7 out of every 100 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they reach 70 years of age. That said, statistics from the CDC suggest that breast cancer mostly occurs in older women, with about 10 percent of cases involving women under the age of 45. In addition, there are a few vital differences when breast cancer affects young women, including:

  • Breast cancer in young women is more likely to be hereditary, passed through inheriting a BRCA gene mutation.
  • Breast cancer in young women is more likely to be detected at a later stage, at which point it will be more aggressive and challenging to treat
  • Young women are at risk of facing other issues when diagnosed with cancer, such as concerns about fertility, body image, isolation, and finances.

The American Cancer Society has proposed guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer as a way to improve the chances of early diagnosis and successful treatment. Many doctors believe that early detection tests, or screening, save thousands of women every year who do not have any symptoms yet. Breast cancers that are detected because of their symptoms tend to be larger and more severe. They are likely to have spread to other areas beyond the breast, which is what makes them harder to treat.

How to Detect Breast Cancer
Women with close relatives who have breast cancer are at higher risk of getting the disease. Having a first-degree relative, like a mother, sister, father, or brother with breast cancer almost doubles your risk, while having 2 first-degree relatives with the disease increases your risk about 3-fold. That said, less than 15 percent of women with breast cancer have a family member with the disease, which implies that the vast majority (85%) of women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.

There are many risk factors for breast cancer, including breast tissue density, diagnosis with certain nonthreatening breast conditions, and lifestyle-related factors, such as age of giving birth, use of birth controls, physical activity, weight, and alcohol use, among others. While there is no actual way to prevent breast cancer, changing the risk factors can help to make the cancer detectable at an early stage, when it is more treatable.

Common signs of breast cancer include:

  • A new mass or lump in the breast – could be hard or soft, painless or tender, rounded or irregular
  • Swelling of part or all of a breast – with or without a lump
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the breast skin or nipple
  • Nipple retraction
  • Nipple discharge – not milk
  • Swelling around the collar bone – caused by the cancer spreading to lymph nodes under the arm

These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions besides breast cancer so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis if they occur.

Dr. Torbati provides early detection cancer screening tools such as mammograms at his private OBGYN practice located in Tarzana, CA. Mammograms are the best way to detect cancer in its early stages, which dramatically increases the success rate of overcoming the disease.