Thursday, 14 October 2021

Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer

According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer in the United States. In Nigeria, more than 100,000 thousand cases are reported every year. In this article, you will learn about breast cancer, its common symptoms, and how it is diagnosed and treated.


What is Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the breast. This happens when abnormal breast cells begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner creating a tumor or mass of cells. The breast cancer can grow into tissues surrounding the breast. 

There are different kinds of breast cancer depending on which cells in the breast turn into cancer. The breast is made up  of three parts. These are the lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. The lobules  are the glands that produce milk. The ducts are tubes that carry milk to the nipple. Connective tissue holds everything together. Most breast cancer starts in the ducts or lobules. It can also travel to other parts of the body like the lungs, bones e.t.c. and form new tumors there. This process is called metastasis. 

What Causes Breast Cancer

It is difficult to say what makes a woman develop breast cancer because the causes have not been fully understood. However, there are some risk factors that have been found to increase the possibility of developing cancer. Having a risk factor does not mean that a woman will get breast cancer.

Family history

If you have a family members like a mother, daughter or sister who has developed breast or ovarian cancer, you may have a higher risk of developing cancer. Genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
 It is possible for these genes to be passed on from parent to children.


The risk of  developing breast cancer increases with age. Many breast cancers are diagnosed after the age of 50.

Reproductive history

Starting periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose the woman's body longer to hormones which can increase the risk of getting cancer.

Personal history of breast cancer

Women who had breast cancer before are at a higher risk of developing it again.

Previous radiation therapy treatment

Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breast before the age of 30 are at higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

These risk factors can be reduced with lifestyle modification

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being overweight after menopause
  • Being physically inactive

Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. One of the most common symptoms is breast lump or thickening of the breast. If you find an unusual lump or thickening of the breast, it is important to consult your healthcare provider immediately for  proper examination.

Read: How to do breast self examination

Other symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Pain in the nipple and pulling in(retraction) of the nipple area.
  • Nipple discharge that is not breast milk including blood
  • Pain in any area of the breast
  • Change in shape or size of the breast
  • Dimpling, redness or pitting or any change in the skin of the breast

Read: How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed

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