Like most cancers, the sooner you discover and begin treatment of breast cancer the better. In fact, during stage 1, there is about a 100% survival rate of five years. This is why it is important for seniors to always be on the look out for warning signs and risk factors of breast cancer.
There are several risk factors and warning signs for breast cancer in seniors that you should monitor carefully. These risk factors can contribute to the chance of a senior developing breast cancer. Although there are risk factors play a role in the disease’s development, according to the American Cancer Society, it’s important to get tested for breast cancer or have regular mammograms since many women, and men, that develop breast cancer have no risk factors.
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Some of the more common risk factors connected with breast cancer in seniors are:
- Your Age – Once you are over the age of 55, your chance of developing breast cancer increases from one in eight to two in three.
- Your Genes – Up to about 10% of breast cancer cases in seniors are thought to be hereditary. This means the cancer was caused due to mutations in a person’s genes which was inherited from one of their parents.
- Your Weight – If you are overweight after menopause, that excess weight can increase your chances of developing breast cancer as fat tissue stores estrogen. Being overweight can also lead to higher blood insulin levels which have also been linked to breast cancer.
- Your Alcohol Intake – Drinking alcohol can increase the chance of breast cancer as well. A senior that drinks one drink per day has a small increase in risk, but an individual that drinks two to five drinks each day has a one and a half times the risk of developing breast cancer as a non-drinker.
Early Warning Signs of Breast Cancer
While there are several early warning signs of breast cancer, swelling in the armpit or swelling under the armpit is one of the most obvious and should be watched for in seniors. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, some of the early signs of breast cancer can also include:
- A lump in your breast
- Swelling in the area of your collarbone or breast
- A redness or thickening of the skin of your breast
- An itching or warm sensation in your breast
- Changes in your nipple or a discharge
Lymph nodes in the underarm area are the first place that breast cancer will spread to due to the lymphatic fluid that drains from the breast. When this happens, the lymph nodes will swell and can be painful.
A senior might notice a tender or sore area or even a lump in the armpit area. If a lump is noticed in this area, and it lasts more than a week, it needs to be checked out by a doctor. While lumps in the lymph nodes can be caused by other things, a senior should not try to diagnose the cause on their own.
The chances of surviving breast cancer depends on how early the cancer is detected and treatment can begin. With early detection, a senior can expect a higher survival rate and a long and healthy life.