Breast cancer occurs when there are abnormalities or mutations in the genes. This results in unsuppressed growth in the breast cells which may result in a tumour. A tumour can be either benign or malignant.
Some of the most common risks include:
- Old age
- Dense breast tissue
- Frequent alcohol consumption
- A family history of the cancer
It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women. Although survival rates have increased with mammography screening, women need to be diligent and proactive in detecting any signs of breast cancer. Women should regularly do self-examinations of their breasts to look for any abnormalities. This could include pain, unusual lumps or masses or discharge from the nipples. The mammogram is still the principle tool used for detectection. At this time there is controversy over whether or not senior women should have screening tests conducted. This decision should be yours and only yours.
Many senior women with breast cancer are far past the age of 65. By this time survival rates of breast cancer are quite low and your doctor may not want to treat the cancer. Many women are not aware that most incidences of breast cancer occur after the age of 60. For those who enter menopause late the incidence of the cancer can be higher than usual. This is most likely due to the increased exposure to estrogen.
Treatment options can vary with age. Older women have radiation and chemotherapy much less often than younger women. Both can cause significant physical side effects which can be worse as you age. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Women should learn all they can about the symptoms and the treatments available. To read more on breast cancer in seniors and the various treatments, click here.