Understanding Breast Cancer and How to Manage Your Chances of Getting It 

Understanding Breast Cancer and How to Manage Your Chances of Getting It 

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a time to raise awareness about the importance of detecting breast cancer early, when it’s easier to treat. Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. The statistics you’ll find throughout this article are hard to ignore, starting with these: 

  • About 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. 
  • 1 in 39 women (3 percent) will die from breast cancer
  • In 2020, it's estimated that about 30 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers. 
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women between ages 55 and 64.
  • About 10 percent of breast cancers occur in women younger than 45.


Breasts are made up of a variety of different tissues, including ducts, lobes, and glands that produce milk and carry it to the nipple. Breasts also contain lymph nodes and fatty tissue. Cancer develops when the cells in the breast mutate and grow out of control. These cells create a tumor. About 80 percent of breast cancers form in the milk ducts. These are called ductal carcinomas. Other breast cancers develop in the glands of lobes that produce milk. These are lobular carcinomas. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

The most recognized physical sign of breast cancer is a lump in the breast tissue. While this discovery will send (and should) many women to the doctor for further examination, there are other signs and symptoms of breast cancer you should know. 

  • Skin changes, such as swelling, redness, or other visible differences in one or both breasts
  • An increase in size or change in shape of the breast(s)
  • Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • General pain in/on any part of the breast
  • Lumps or nodes felt on or inside of the breast

Symptoms more specific to invasive breast cancer — meaning when the cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissues, are:

  • Irritated or itchy breasts
  • Change in breast color
  • Increase in breast size or shape (over a short period of time)
  • Changes in touch (may feel hard, tender or warm)
  • Peeling or flaking of the nipple skin
  • A breast lump or thickening
  • Redness or pitting of the breast skin (like the skin of an orange) 

Breast Cancer Risk Factors 

When it comes to breast cancer, there are no rules about who gets this disease. The development of breast cancer may be influenced by a variety of factors — from age to family history — even your level of physical activity.

Age – The older you are, the greater your chance of getting breast cancer.

  • The average age of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is 62. 
  • The average age of a woman who dies from breast cancer is 68.
  • About 77 percent of women are over age 50 at the time they are diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • When women who have not gone through menopause get the disease, it may be a faster-growing breast cancer.

Family History – If you have a close blood relative — a mother, sister, or daughter — who has had breast cancer, the risk of developing the disease doubles. If two of these relatives have the disease, the risk increases five times.

Personal History – A woman with cancer in one breast has a three- to four-fold increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast.

Race – White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than are African-American women. However, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer as they appear more likely to get an aggressive form of the disease. Asian and Hispanic women have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.

Alcohol – Women who have two to five alcoholic drinks daily have 1.5 times the risk of developing breast cancer as women who do not drink.

Menstrual Periods – If menstruation started before age 12 or if menopause started after age 50, the risk for breast cancer is slightly increased.

Oral Contraceptives – Women who use birth control pills may have a slightly greater risk of getting breast cancer.

Childbirth – For a woman who has not had children or had her first child after age 30, the risk for breast cancer is slightly increased.

Breastfeeding – The risk of breast cancer may be slightly lowered if a woman breastfed her children, especially if nursing lasted for 1.5 to 2 years. Breastfeeding reduces a woman’s lifetime exposure to estrogen, which can promote cancer cell growth.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – Some women who use hormones containing estrogen, with or without a form of progesterone, after menopause may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. The risk seems to return to normal within five years of stopping HRT.

Weight – Women who are overweight, especially after menopause, are at increased risk for breast cancer. Researchers believe that this is because fat tissue can make estrogen, and exposure to estrogen is linked to breast cancer.

Physical Activity – While the “how” is not fully understood, studies consistently show an increase in physical activity is linked to a lower risk of breast cancer. 

How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?

Breast cancer is typically detected either during screening, before symptoms have developed, or after a woman notices a lump. Masses can be detected on a mammogram. Women who are diagnosed with dense breast tissue may be required to get an ultrasound screening in addition to the mammogram.  Most breast lumps turn out to be benign.


However, when cancer is suspected, a physician will order a  needle biopsy or a surgical biopsy to obtain a tissue sample. Selection of the type of biopsy is based on multiple factors, including the size and location of the mass, as well as patient factors and preferences and resources.


Take Control 


One of the easiest things a woman can do to try and reduce her risk of breast cancer is to take charge of certain aspects of her health she can control, such as diet, exercise, and weight management. However, before making any drastic changes to lifestyle, women should get a screening that can identify the overall condition of their health.


The comprehensive female panel at Any Lab Test Now is designed for women at all stages of their life to help them make informed decisions about their healthcare goals. It includes blood counts, a metabolic panel which includes kidney and liver functions, female hormones, thyroid, heart health, and nutritional status. You don’t need to get a doctor’s order to get this or any lab test at Any Lab Test Now. You can learn more about the comprehensive female panel here. 


Be at Ease

Any Lab Test Now wants you to be at ease when it comes to seeking out any type of lab work. 

We provide you a safe and clean alternative location for lab work. Each of our 185+ stores is sanitized several times a day, in accordance with the CDC’s protocols. Any Lab Test Now is a committed partner in helping you manage your family’s healthcare so you can make educated decisions that will directly affect your quality of life. We want to put you at ease during the coronavirus outbreak. We are here to help. 

Find your closest Any Lab Test Now store at www.anylabtestnow.com.

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