Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. But there are still some things you may not know about it. We spoke with Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center, about some little known breast cancer facts. Here are five things you may not know.
1. Breast cancer doesn’t always come in the form of a lump.
Breast cancer in its earliest stages usually doesn’t have any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, it’s not always in the form of a lump. Be on the lookout for any of the signs below and report them to your doctor right away.
- Lump in your breast
- Swelling in or around your breast, collarbone or armpit
- Skin thickening or redness in or around your breast
- Breast warmth and itching
- Nipple changes or discharge
- Breast pain lasting for more than three to four weeks
2. Having a male relative who’s had breast cancer increases your chances.
You may be more likely to get breast cancer if you have a male relative who’s had the disease. This is especially true if it’s a close family member like a father, brother or son. If you fall in this group, talk to your doctor about genetic testing to find out if cancer runs in your family.
3. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your breast cancer risk.
Being overweight or obese — especially after menopause — may raise your cancer risks. To keep your cancer risk low, avoid weight gain by eating healthy foods and staying active. Stick with a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. And, try to fit in at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your day.
4. You don’t need to learn how to do a self-exam.
Studies show that doing monthly breast self-exams isn’t necessary.
Instead, it’s more important to stay aware of how your breasts look and feel. If you notice changes, report them to your doctor without delay. This works just as well as doing a formal breast self-exam.
5. Drinking several glasses of alcohol a day can up your breast cancer risk.
Having a glass of wine now and again is not bad for your health. But, drinking several glasses a day can increase your breast cancer risk.
Play it safe by sticking to the recommended serving size. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that women have no more than one drink per day and men have no more than two drinks per day.
To schedule an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center, please call 877-632-6789.