Breast cancer symptoms : What they are and how to prevent them

Breast cancer symptoms are caused by a malignant growth that begins in the tissues of the breast. Over the course of a lifetime, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

There are several different types of breast cancer. Ductal carcinoma begins in the cells lining the ducts that bring milk to the nipple and accounts for more than 75% of breast cancers.

Lobular carcinoma begins in the milk-secreting glands of the breast but is otherwise fairly similar in its behavior to ductal carcinoma. Other varieties of breast cancer can arise from the skin, fat, connective tissues, and other cells present in the breast.

Breast cancer symptoms are subject to the following risk factors :

Age and Gender

As with most cancers, age is a significant factor. In fact, 77% of new cases and 84% of breast cancer deaths occur in women aged 50 and older. More than 80% of breast cancer cases occur in women over 50. Less than 1% of breast cancers occur in men.

The risk of breast cancer is clearly related to hormonal influences, but how these affect the disease and particularly types of the disease is not yet clear.

Genetic Factors and Family History associated to Breast Cancer symptoms

Some families appear to have a genetic tendency for breast cancer. Two variant genes have been found that appear to account for this: BRCA1 and BRCA2. The genes p53 and BARD1 also appear to be important. Researchers have identified some other defective genes that may cause breast cancer, including BRCA3 and Noey2 (which is a disease inherited only from the father's side of the family).

These facts suggest that breast cancer symptoms are caused by the growth of genetically damaged cells. Such genetic damage is known to gradually accumulate in the cells of the body over time. Women carrying mutated BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes have a "head start" in this process.

Hormonal influences are important because they encourage cell growth. High levels of hormones during a woman's reproductive years, especially when they are not interrupted by the hormonal changes of pregnancy, appear to increase the chances that genetically damaged cells will grow and cause cancer.

Early Menstruation and Late Menopause

Women who started menstrual periods early (before age 12) or went through menopause late (after age 55) are at higher risk of developping breast cancer symptoms. Also, women who have never had children or who had them only after the age of 30 have an increased risk.

Oral Contraceptives (birth control pills)

Birth control pills may slightly increase the risk for breast cancer, depending on age, length of use, and other factors. No one knows how long the effects of the pill last after stopping it.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Use of HRT has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer symptoms.

Physical Characteristics

Obesity is controversial as a risk factor. Some studies report obesity as a risk of breast cancer, possibly associated with higher levels of estrogen production in obese women.

Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol use (more than 1-2 drinks a day) has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.


Some studies have pointed to exposure to estrogen-like chemicals that are found in pesticides and other industrial products as a possible increased risk of breast cancer symptoms.


Women who took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage may have an increased risk of breast cancer.


People exposed to radiation, particularly during childhood, may face an increased risk for breast cancer in adulthood.

Especially at risk are those that received chest irradiation for prior cancers.

Breast cancer symptoms

  • Breast lump or breast mass noted upon breast exam -- usually painless, firm to hard and usually with irregular borders
  • Lump or mass in the armpit
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Abnormal nipple discharge
  • Usually bloody or clear-to-yellow or green fluid
  • May look like pus (purulent)
  • Change in the color or feel of the skin of the breast, nipple, or areola
  • Dimpled, puckered, or scaly
  • Retraction, "orange peel" appearance
  • Redness
  • Accentuated veins on breast surface
  • Change in appearance or sensation of the nipple
  • Pulled in (retraction), enlargement, or itching
  • Breast pain, enlargement, or discomfort on one side only
  • Any breast lump, pain, tenderness, or other change in a man
  • Symptoms of advanced disease are bone pain, weight loss, swelling of one arm, and skin ulceration

Prevention of Breast cancer symptoms

Many risk factors cannot be controlled. Some experts in the field of diet and cancer agree that changes in diet and lifestyle may reduce the incidence of cancer generally.

Efforts have focused on early detection since breast cancer is more easily treated and often curable if it is found early.

Breast self-examination (BSE), clinical breast examination (CBE) by a medical professional, and screening mammography are the three tools of early detection.

Most recommend breast self-examinations (BSE) once a month -- the week following your menstrual period if you are age 20 or older.

Regular clinical breast examinations (CBE) by a health professional are recommended for women between ages 20 and 39, at least every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a CBE by a health professional every year.

The daily intake of health supplements should also be considered. The intake of pure fish oil has been proven to be beneficial for the body's immune function. Research has linked intake of fish oil to a lowered risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.

For more information on fish oil supplements to prevent and decrease the risk of developping breast cancer symptoms, click here


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