Understanding Breast Cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month, pass it on; Hope; fight like a girl; JNH Lifestyles

In the simplest terms, cancer occurs when the genes in a cell mutate. As a result, this causes the cells to rapidly multiply, creating various issues. Cancer can also occur in any part of the body, hence, breast cancer happens within the breast tissue, usually in the ducts or lobules.

It’s important to note that breast cancer does not discriminate on the basis of sex. Male breast cancer, which is rare, is often overlooked. In 2009, male breast cancer advocacy groups, Out of the Shadow of Pink, A Man's Pink, and the Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men, joined together to globally establish the third week of October as "Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.”

In fact, the entire month of October marks “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” With October upon us, this article will hopefully help you gain more awareness regarding breast cancer, the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, breast cancer causes, the risk factors, and prevention.

Breast Cancer Signs & Symptoms

What many don’t know is that there are various types of breast cancer. Usually, these are defined as invasive or noninvasive. Invasive forms of breast cancer have spread from their original starting point [1].

Depending on the type of breast cancer, signs and symptoms may vary. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Lumps in breasts
  • Size, shape, or appearance changes in breasts
  • Dimpling of the skin over breasts or other changes in the skin
  • An inverted nipple that was not inverted before
  • Scaling, peeling, flaking, or crusting of the area around the nipple
  • Redness [2]

Causes of Breast Cancer

While a direct cause has not been fully identified, experts know that breast cancer happens when the cells begin rapidly dividing and multiplying. As these cells accumulate, they form lumps or abnormal tissue. Usually, breast cancer starts within the milk-producing ducts or the glandular tissue, known as lobules. However, it can also begin in other tissues in the breast.

Inevitably, more research is needed to further understand breast cancer. It has been theorized that environmental, lifestyle, and genetic factors may play a role in the development of breast cancer. Yet, these are more so defined as risk factors, which we explore in the next section.

Risk Factors

There are many factors that researchers have identified as ‘high risk’ in the development of breast cancer. However, these risk factors, as outlined below, don’t necessarily guarantee one will develop breast cancer.


About 5-10% of breast cancer cases are estimated to be linked to genetic or inherent causes [2]. This may be due to genetic mutations, including certain genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. Usually, if a person has a family history of breast cancer, their doctor will recommend regular testing to ensure that if it does happen, it’s caught early on.


While breast cancer can happen in males, it is rare. Unfortunately, being female poses a higher risk of developing this disease.


Any radiation exposure to the chest or torso may increase your odds of developing breast cancer. This particularly increases the risk for adults who, as children or young adults, were exposed to radiation.

Hormonal Therapy

If you are on hormonal therapy, such as postmenopausal estrogen or progesterone medications, to help reduce the symptoms associated with menopause, you may be at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Ceasing to take this medication will decrease risks of developing breast cancer.

Other Lifestyle Factors

Obesity is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including breast cancer. In addition, giving birth at an older age, early menstruation, never being pregnant, and menopause starting at a later age also increases your risk of developing breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Infographic: Number one cancer killer of woman


Proper prevention comes down to regular screenings and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For example, eating a nutritious diet, getting adequate exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not taking hormonal therapy, and reducing your alcohol consumption can significantly help reduce your risk.

For more information regarding regular screenings near you, discuss your options with a local healthcare provider. Typically, for women over 50 years of age, a mammogram is recommended every second year.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend starting this regular screening process at an earlier age. It further helps to know the symptoms and signs, as described above, to ensure you get the help you need as soon as possible. This October, educate yourself, help raise awareness, and donate towards the continuing battle against breast cancer. Every little bit counts and can save lives.


[1] Ranchod, Y. (2019). “A Comprehensive Guide to Breast Cancer.”, 14 November 2019,

[2] Mayo Clinic. (2019). “Breast cancer.”, 22 November 2019,

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