5 Things You Need To Know About Breast Cancer
Breast cancer can often seem like a confusing and frightening disease. But with knowledge and awareness comes power. Being armed with the facts can help put your mind at ease and allow you to take your breast health into your own hands.
- It’s not just a grandma’s disease
Unfortunately, women in their 20s/30s/40s can and do get breast cancer, despite a lack of awareness that it can affect younger people. It is estimated that 18% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 will be under the age of 50. Although the overall numbers may seem small, the possibility is there, which is why it’s important for young women to get familiar with the look and feel of their breasts, and pay attention to any changes. (But remember not to panic! The majority of lumps and changes in a young woman’s breasts are not cancer.) If you do notice something that concerns you, get it checked out. And if your doctor says the words, “You’re too young for breast cancer”… get a second opinion.
- Early detection is not a cure
Although detecting breast cancer early is associated with a better prognosis, it is not a guaranteed cure. 20-30% of those with early breast cancer are later diagnosed with metastatic disease (when breast cancer spreads to distant sites in the body). While treatments continue to improve, there is currently no cure for metastatic breast cancer.
- It’s not always a lump
Breast cancer most often presents itself as a lump in the breast. But many people don’t realize that there can be other signs to look out for. Other possible symptoms of breast cancer can include itchiness of the breast, redness or swelling, puckering of the skin, and changes in the nipple.
- Breast cancer isn’t just one disease
Many people aren’t aware that there is not only one “kind” of breast cancer. In fact, there are many types and subtypes, such as HER2-positive, estrogen-positive, triple-negative, invasive, non-invasive, and inflammatory breast cancer. Different breast cancers are treated differently, based on what is known to work best for the specific type of cancer. And a young person who is diagnosed with the same breast cancer as an older person may have a different prognosis and require different treatment, due to the more aggressive nature of cancer in young adults.
- Men can get breast cancer too
Another misconception about breast cancer is it is strictly a women’s disease. Even though the vast majority of breast cancer cases are female, men can indeed get it too. The lifetime risk for men getting breast cancer is approximately 1 in 1000 (less than 1% of all breast cancer cases). Although rare, it’s still important for men to be breast aware, particularly those with a family history or genetic mutation, or those who received radiation to the chest area.