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What is Breast Cancer, What Causes It and How Do I Prevent It? (Sponsored Content)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we’ve turned pink to help raise awareness! All month long we’re going to feature stories, articles and helpful videos with information you might not know, could use a refresher on, or might like to use to teach your daughters or granddaughters.

Let’s start from the beginning. What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the breast tissue.

Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably, a mass of tissue forms. This is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. They can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Although most people think of breast cancer as affecting women, men can develop breast cancer as well. Breast cancer in men can be more aggressive.


The cause of breast cancer is unknown. Research shows that certain risk factors are associated with the disease.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your risk for breast cancer include:

  • Sex: female, although men can also get breast cancer
  • Age: 50 or older
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Family members with breast cancer
  • Changes in breast tissue, such as atypical ductal hyperplasia, radial scar formation, and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
  • Changes in certain genes (BRCA1, BRCA2, and others)
  • Race: Caucasian
  • Increased exposure to estrogen over a lifetime through:
    • Early onset of menstruation
    • Late onset of menopause
    • No childbearing or late childbearing
    • Absence of breast-feeding
    • Taking hormone replacement therapy (eg, Prempro)
    • Tobacco use
  • Increased breast density (more lobular and ductal tissue and less fatty tissue)
  • Radiation therapy before the age of 30 years old
  • Overuse of alcohol

Note: Studies show that most women with known risk factors do not get breast cancer. Many women who get breast cancer have none of the risk factors listed above except age.


Finding breast cancer early and treating it is the best way to prevent death from the disease. Breast cancer does not cause symptoms in the early stages. It is important to have screening exams and tests. These steps can help to find the cancer before symptoms appear. The following recommendations are for women with no symptoms who are not high risk for breast cancer:

  • Mammograms:
    • Age 40-49—Recommendations vary from waiting until age 50 to having the screening every 1-2 years.
    • Age 50-74—ranges from every year to every two years
  • Clinical breast exam:
    • Age 20-39—ranges from every year to every 3 years
    • Age 40 and older—every year
  • Breast self-exam:
    • Age 20 and older—optional; talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.

If you have an increased risk of breast cancer, you may need to start having mammograms earlier. You and your doctor can decide on the best screening schedule for you.

Also, if you are at very high risk for breast cancer, surgery to remove your breasts before you get cancer (called prophylactic mastectomy) may be an option.

Find out more about breast cancer from Las Palmas Del Sol Medical.

-Laurie LaRusso, (MS, ELSS) is a freelance writer and editor in life sciences with a master’s degree in health communication from Tufts University School of Medicine.

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