senior woman with breast cancer pinOctober is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I’m sure you’ve noticed a lot of pink ribbons and fundraising walks around town to celebrate survivors and give support to women undergoing treatment for the disease! However, breast cancer awareness is more than just charity walks and ribbons. Did you know that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women? It’s important to inform yourself by understanding the symptoms and common signs of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Breast cancer can cause many different symptoms, so it’s important to know what to look for:

  1. A lump in the breast or underarm. Lumps can usually be detected with a mammogram long before they can be seen or felt. Most lumps are not breast cancer, but they can be, so if you find one, it’s important to get it checked out.
  2. Pain or tenderness in the breast area.
  3. A flattening or indentation in the breast.
  4. A change in the nipple, such as a scaly rash, nipple retraction, dimpling, itching, or a burning sensation.
  5. Any change in the contour, temperature, or texture of the breast.
  6. Unusual discharge from the nipple.
  7. A new mole or change in an existing mole.
  8. A sore that does not heal.
  9. A cough or hoarseness that doesn’t go away.
  10. Changes in your bladder or bowels.
  11. Feeling very weak or tired.
  12. Weight gain or loss for no known reason.

If you’re concerned about symptoms you’re having, visit your doctor right away. Treatments for breast cancer have improved significantly in recent years, so don’t let fear of treatment prevent you from speaking to your physician. If caught early, most breast cancers are highly treatable.  

Screening for Breast Cancer

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now recommends that women younger than age 50 not receive yearly screening mammograms. The USPSTF is an organization that makes recommendations about health screening tests based on a review of all the available evidence.  Current recommendations are now that women between the ages of 50 and 74 receive mammogram screenings every two years.

Many medical experts have come to the conclusion in recent years that mammogram screenings face some of the same problems as PSA screening for prostate cancer.

False positives, or the mammogram showing that a woman has breast cancer when she does not, are very common. False positives result in unnecessary treatments, such as biopsies and CT scans, that have risks for the patient. For women younger than age 50 or older than age 74, the USPSTF has decided that there isn’t evidence to support that the benefits of mammogram screenings outweigh the harms. To learn more, visit the USPSTF’s breast cancer screening webpage.

The benefits of breast cancer screening can change based on your family history or other personal risk factors. It’s very important you make these decisions in consultation with your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor to determine what screening plan is right for you.

If you have anything you think we missed that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below!

For more information, please review our Breast Cancer Resources.

  • Susan McClure

    I was within a month of turning 70 and had my annual mammogram through Kaiser. Permanente. They found what a biopsy confirmed was an invasive ductal carcinoma, stage one, grade one. I was not at high risk for breast cancer since there is no family history and I breastfed 4 children for a total of 8 1/2 years. I will be having a lumpectomy in 2 weeks and wonder if I had a mammogram every two years per the new recommendation if this tumor would have been much larger and at a more serious stage. If breast cancer is the leading cause of death among women, why are they recommending fewer mammograms. The data isn’t much of a consolation if you are one of the new victims.

  • Shelia Pittman

    There’s always some new information, to learn and share with friends,and family.

  • Gail

    Well, I have 4 of the 12 symptoms plus my mother, 2 aunts and grandmother had breast cancer. So, guess I need to go get this checked out