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Breast Cancer: The Signs and Risk Factors

Updated on November 18, 2015

Breast Cancer Awareness

Women all over the world are being constantly advised and educated on the need to examine themselves on regular basis in order to detect telltale signs of the killer disease – breast cancer. All over the world thousands of women are being killed every year as a result of falling victims to breast cancer. The saddest part of this is that many of these women do not even know they have the horrible disease until things get too late. And when things get too late, a woman's chances of survival dramatically become slim. This is what makes breast cancer extremely dangerous.

Ignorance makes breast cancer more dangerous

According to studies, a lot of women have this deadly disease and have no clue that the cancer dwells within them simply because many women don’t regularly examine their breasts and don’t even know the signs of breast cancer. This is especially worse when you go to the underdeveloped parts of the world.

Doctors have repeatedly said that breast cancer is treatable providing it is detected early enough. But sadly for some women, they detect it very late, and at this point it becomes quite late for medical professionals to help save the lives of these women. It is so sad to know that ignorance in terms of not knowing how to examine themselves for breast cancer leads thousands of women to their early graves every year.

It is therefore very vital for women all over the world to be constantly made aware of the importance of breast cancer education and having their breasts screened regularly to check if they are developing breast cancers.

According to health experts, while breast cancer is a disease that is largely curable, ignorance of it can make it very fatal – a trend that is happening in several places across the world – especially in various parts of Africa. I have personally witnessed numerous cases where women suffered from breast cancer without even knowing they had the deadly condition until they went to hospital because of some other illness and were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Regular examination is imperative in the treatment of breast cancer

Doctors say that breast cancer is about 95 percent of the time very curable if only it is detected early enough and treatment processes proceeded with the moment it has been diagnosed, thus the dire need for a regular breast examination. Regular breast examination is the key to detecting breast cancer early enough so as to save lives.

Women can do home self examinations on their breasts for unusual lumps. If such lumps are found developing within them, then there is the dire need for them to rush straight to a health center for thorough examination to be conducted by specialists to find out if it is indeed breast cancer developing. Women should never take this self examination for granted as it is killing hundreds of women every day especially in the underdeveloped worlds.

What causes breast cancer?

Many readers might be thoroughly surprised to know that even though this illness has been with us for a very long time, health experts, up on till today, have not really found the root cause of breast cancer. Hopefully as science advances, the real cause or causes of breast cancer will be uncovered. For now, all health experts can do is to educate women on the signs of breast cancer and risk factors of breast cancer. Readers should take note of the fact that a risk factor for a disease is different from what causes a disease. A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chances of developing a disease, infection or an injury.

In my attempt to enlighten myself on breast cancer, I interviewed numerous health experts and asked them many questions about this horrible disease. At the end of the day, I got to know the major signs of breast cancer and the risk factors for the disease.

The risk factors for breast cancer

  • The mere fact that you are a woman puts you at a risk of developing breast cancer. It would interest you to know that a shocking 97 percent of all breast cancer cases are women whereas only a mere 3 percent of breast cancer cases happen to men. And yes some men also develop breast cancer! That would be another topic for another day.
  • If you are a woman who has a family that has quite a history of breast cancer, then you stand a higher risk of developing the killer disease yourself than another woman whose family has no history of breast cancer problems. So for example, if Amanda has close blood relatives that suffered from the disease or are suffering from the disease, her chance of suffering from the disease at some point in her life is higher than Jessica who has no close blood relative who has suffered from the disease.
  • According to health experts, studies have discovered that women who are usually unable to give birth to children are believed to stand higher risks of developing breast cancer than their fertile counterparts.
  • Excessive alcohol use is also believed to have a slight increase in a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Experts have also said that a woman’s age at first pregnancy can also put her at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. The age is normally 30 years. In other words, if your first child was delivered when you were at the age of 30 and above then your risks increase.
  • According to the American Cancer Society, women who have had more menstrual cycles are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. A woman will have more menstrual cycle when she started having her menses early – usually before the age of 12 and entered into menopause very late – around the age of 55 and above. While it is not exactly clear why this happens, doctors suspect it is as a result of the fact that women who have had more menstrual cycles have been exposed too much to estrogen and progesterone.
  • Women who are obese or overweight after menopause also have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Women who don’t engage in physical activity are more prone to suffering from breast cancer than women who frequently workout.

According to the American Cancer Society, other things that can increase a woman’s risk of suffering from breast cancer include: undergoing hormone therapy after menopause, using oral contraceptives, having chest radiation therapy for the treatment of some other type of cancer such as lymphoma, having certain benign breast problems, etc.

What are the common signs of breast cancer?

These are the very common signs of breast cancer:

  • Unusual lumps in the breast can usually mean one thing – breast cancer developing. This is one of the most common signs of breast cancer. The moment you see an unusual lump developing in your breasts, you should take it very seriously and go straight to your doctor’s office. Sometimes the lumps might not be a sign of breast cancer but sometimes they are hence the need to visit a specialist to be hundred percent sure of your condition.
  • A lump in the armpit can also be a sign that a woman is suffering from breast cancer. Here, the lump is usually painless, small and hard. According to doctors, the lump(s) in the armpit is usually a sign that the breast cancer has worsened and moved to lymph nodes.
  • Health experts say that swollen breasts can also indicate breast cancer. Again, the service of a specialist is required to be sure of what you are suffering from.
  • A sudden change of the skin, the size and shape of the breast can also be a sign of breast cancer developing.

Breast cancer can be treated

Remember breast cancer is a highly curable condition. The key to surviving breast cancer is early detection and treatment. Therefore I guess I don’t need to tell you how important it is to go for constant breast screening, which you can do by yourself at home by simply using your hands to check for any signs of lumps or you can have the screening at a health facility. And if you do have the cancer, you don’t need to worry as there are several treatment methods for breast cancer. Treatment can vary from radiation therapy, surgery and even chemotherapy amongst several other effective therapies.


If you are a woman reading this who doesn’t frequently get screened, my advice to you is to get screened right away. Examine yourself; are there any lumps in the area? If there are, then it is imperative that you rush to a hospital or healthcare center near you for instant help.

NOTE: Breast cancer is a killer - a cold killer! According to the American Cancer Society, in 2013 alone, approximately 39,620 women in the United States died from breast cancer.

Have you ever examined yourself for breast cancer?

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