According to the American Cancer Society, by the end of 2016, approximately 246,660 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in American women, and approximately 40,450 women will die from breast cancer. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women. 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
Breast cancer awareness is much more than knowing the statistics. It is hoped that this will lead to proactive prevention, recognition of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and early detection if it occurs.
The following five warning signs of breast cancer are something many women shrug off, but recognizing them could be life-saving.
- New mole / Modification of existing mole
Moles are associated with a higher risk of skin cancer, but may also be associated with breast cancer. In one study, researchers followed 89,902 women between the ages of 40 and 65 and recorded their health records for 18 years. At the beginning of the study, the number of moles in each woman was documented. During the study, 5956 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. The researchers found that women with the most moles had a 13% higher risk of breast cancer than women without. If you notice a new mole or a change in an existing mole, see your doctor.
- Cough or hoarseness does not go away
Cancers that start in one area are called primary cancers. When some cancer cells break away from the primary cancer and spread to other parts of the body, they can form another tumor called a secondary tumor. Breast cancer has spread to the lungs and is manifested by prolonged coughing and hoarseness. In 60-70% of women with incurable breast cancer, the cancer spreads to the lungs. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath and a dry cough.
- Bladder and bowel changes
Breast cancer can cause hormonal changes that dry out the urethra and make it difficult to control the bladder. This is known as urinary incontinence, and common symptoms include leakage of urine during activities such as coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercise, sudden or urgent urination, and taking longer than usual to urinate. If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with a healthcare professional.
Fatigue is a common symptom in breast cancer patients and survivors, but often occurs before diagnosis. Fatigue caused by cancer does not go away with sleep or rest. It is often very severe and often associated with a high level of distress that is not overwhelming. Cancer-related fatigue is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain, sleep disturbances, and depression. Researchers believe this fatigue is caused by chemical imbalances in the body that cause cancer.
- Unexplained back pain
Back pain is a common health problem, with 8 out of 10 people experiencing it at some point in their lives. Back pain can also be a symptom of breast cancer. Back pain associated with breast cancer is pain that presses against the ribs, back, or feels like it’s coming from the bones in the upper back. It can also be a sign that breast cancer has spread to the spine.