Breast Cancer Awareness: The Importance of Routine Screenings


Breast cancer is a disease that impacts a significant number of people each year in the United States. Since October is dedicated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, now is a great time to become more educated on the causes of this life-threatening cancer, as well as the risk factors and the importance of regular breast cancer screenings.

Much like all types of cancer, breast cancer results when aggregates of cells start to divide irregularly and in excess, rather than progressing through their typical biological process and life cycle. Many times, breast cancer arises in the milk-yielding lobules when genetic material in these cells begins to mutate. When these modified cells arise more rapidly than the body can dispose of them, a tumor develops.

Tumors can develop in the lobules of the breast, as well as in the fatty tissue surrounding and protecting the milk-producing structures. In rare instances, breast cancers can even metastasize to additional structures around the body, including the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. When this occurs, the gastroenterologists at Arizona Digestive Health in Phoenix, AZ collaborate with other health care experts to provide care for cancers that spread to impact the digestive tissues. Getting a breast cancer diagnosis as early as possible is integral to safeguarding your general health.

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

Breast cancer is among the most common types of cancer in women, as one out of every eight women will develop the disease during their lives. It is estimated that that greater than 280,000 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in 2021, and nearly 50,000 women will be diagnosed with noninvasive carcinoma in situ breast cancer.

The majority of women who get breast cancer are over the age of 55, but breast cancer is still among the top causes of mortality among women between the ages of 35 and 55. Non-Hispanic African American women and non-Hispanic white women are at the greatest risk for cancer of the breast, while Latina women and African American women have a higher probability of dying due to the disease.

Genetic factors also pose an elevated chance of developing breast cancer. Patients with family members who have had breast cancer are more apt to experience the condition over the course of their lives. Though hereditary factors, being female, and being of senior age can not be changed, there are many things that a person can do to reduce the risk of or ward off breast cancer development.

Some other breast cancer risk factors are:

  • Being overweight

  • Breastfeeding for less than a year

  • Alcohol use

  • Unhealthy diet

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

  • Smoking

  • Radiation therapy before age 30

  • Lack of exercise

  • Chemical contraception and other forms of hormone intake

  • Inadequate amounts of vitamin D

  • Becoming pregnant after age 30

Changing things in your lifestyle and regularly receiving checkups can help minimize your risk of developing breast cancer, particularly if any of the above factors apply to you.

What are the various types of breast cancer?

Cancer of the breast is identified as either malignant (invasive) or noninvasive carcinoma in situ. Noninvasive cancers are lumps of cells that more or less grow in one place, splitting haphazardly but not mutating outside of their principal tasks in other ways. They may be removed via surgery and are not as likely to reform.

Malignant types of tumors are more injurious, as they expand branches of cells into the neighboring tissues. In some cases, they may break off and move to additional tissues throughout the body. Malignant cancers could also create and release damaging hormones and other substances that adversely impact the body.

The varying classifications of breast cancer include:

  • Phyllodes tumors: These non-malignant types of tumors start in connective tissue fibers.

  • Paget disease of the nipple: This is a form of breast cancer that starts in the areola or nipple.

  • Angiosarcoma: This less common variation of tumor begins in lymph vessels, blood vessels, or the skin.

  • Ductal carcinoma: Starting in the milk ducts, ductal carcinoma can be invasive, spreading beyond the mild duct and impacting other portions of the breast. This form of cancer can also be in situ, which means it stays in the milk ducts. In the event they are detected early enough, in situ cancers are typically easy to address, although they are at risk of becoming malignant without treatment. Sadly, about 80% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed as invasive ductal carcinomas.

  • Lobular carcinoma: This form of breast cancer begins in the glands that produce milk, or lobules. When this type of carcinoma is in situ, it is considered the least serious type of breast tumor since it is unlikely to spread. Although, it should still be addressed as recommended by a doctor given that its existence may signify the chance of additional tumor development over time. When lobular carcinomas are invasive, they are especially challenging to diagnose and typically more problematic.

What is a breast cancer screening?

The optimal way to reduce the risk of break cancer, besides living a healthy and active life, is to receive screenings for breast cancer regularly. These screenings commonly include a clinical assessment along with a mammogram, or radiographic imaging of the breast tissue conducted to identify areas of dense tissue within the breast. Regular breast exams are exceptionally vital for catching breast cancer in the early stages and facilitating the greatest possible treatment results. Individuals can also carry out breast self-exams and should do so on a regular basis. Your doctor can provide instructions on how to perform this properly.

Schedule your breast cancer screening

The physicians at Arizona Digestive Health are proud to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month and hope to motivate patients in Phoenix, AZ to help protect their overall health by having regular screenings for breast cancer. To learn about the ideal options for diagnosing the condition and the best way to protect your health, it is crucial to visit a qualified medical professional for routine breast cancer screenings and care.