October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast. Cancer starts when cells begin to grow out of control. Breast cancer cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too. It’s important to understand that most breast lumps are benign and not cancer (malignant). The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or round. They can even be painful. For this reason, it’s important to have any new breast mass, lump, or breast change checked by an experienced health care professional. Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt)
Skin dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
Breast or nipple pain
Nipple retraction (turning inward)
Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened
Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
Swollen lymph nodes (Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.)
Remember that knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. Although Black women get breast cancer at a slightly lower incidence rate than white women, Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer and are twice as likely to die if they are over 50 (via African American Women and Breast Cancer).
To learn more about breast cancer, early diagnosis, treatment and more, go to https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer.html