Understanding Your Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is probably the most well-known cancer, and with good reason. Although the numbers vary among experts, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that nearly 280,000 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Of those diagnosed, 42,690 are likely to die from the disease. The NCI’s numbers show breast cancer as the most prevalent cancer in the U.S. and the 4th most deadly form of cancer — behind lung, colorectal, and pancreatic.

If you notice a few more pink bows than usual this month, don’t be surprised. October is the National Breast Cancer Association’s (NBCA) annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One of NBCA’s most important missions is education. There is no better time to learn the risk factors associated with breast cancer and what you need to be mindful of.

Are you interested in learning more about breast cancer or undergoing a clinical breast exam? If so, come see the team at Qvita Health & Wellness. Our CEO and leader, Panagiota (Peggy) Demetriou, ARNP, FNP-BC, is proud to offer a wide-range of primary care and cosmetic services. Our practice uses a holistic approach to deliver comprehensive health care that considers all sides of the equation. We’ll work with you to help you manage your breast health. 

Before your appointment, take some time to review the information below on breast cancer and its risks.

On breast cancer

Breast cancer starts when certain cells in breast tissue begin to grow abnormally. These abnormal cells divide and multiply at a quicker rate than the healthy cells in the breast and eventually form a mass or tumor. Both men and women can develop breast cancer. The most common breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma, begins in the cells around the milk ducts. Breast cancer may also start in glandular tissues of the breast.

On breast cancer genes

You have probably heard of BRCA, or breast cancer genes. The genes rose to prominence after a few notable celebrities, including Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate, underwent double mastectomies as a preventative measure.

Everyone has BRCA genes, and they actually usually play a role in preventing breast cancer. However, when these genes become mutated they are no longer effective at preventing cancer. The genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, significantly raise breast cancer risk. For example, approximately 12% of women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime; for women with BRCA1 and BRCA2, the numbers stand at 55-65% and 45%, respectively.

Breast cancer genes as a risk factor

In addition to having a higher breast cancer risk, women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 also have a higher risk of recurrence and of triple negative breast cancer, which is aggressive and difficult to treat. Jolie and Applegate were both acting with extreme caution when they opted to undergo preventative double mastectomies. For many women with the genes, early detection plans can help find cancer when it is still easily treated without the need for invasive procedures.

Other risk factors

Risk factors can be sorted into two main categories — those you can change and those you can’t. Risk factors you can’t change include:

Risk factors more in your control include the following:

If you think you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor. The team at Qvita Health & Wellness can help you manage your breast health and mitigate your risk factors as much as possible.

Call or book an appointment at our Wesley Chapel office today.

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