Seniors and Breast Cancer: What to Look For
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, the time of year in which we bring attention to the causes, signs, and symptoms of breast cancer. Although everyone should take part in this month, it’s especially important for senior citizens to practice awareness. According to the CDC, “Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older.”
Thus, in the spirit of breast cancer awareness, the following will act as a very brief guideline of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Be aware that this is a guideline, and should always be supplemented with an annual mammogram and visit with a primary care physician.
1. Pronounced lump in the underarm, collar, or breast
One of the main indicators of breast cancer is a new pronounced lump near the breast tissue. This symptom tends to be the most universal warning that something is amiss. It’s important to note that this tissue extends beyonds the breasts and can be found as high as the collarbone or under the arm. Thus, it’s imperative to be thorough when checking for lumps.
It’s also important to note that not every lump is cancerous. Sometimes it is inflamed tissue or irregularities caused by the hormonal cycle. Although it is difficult to tell the difference, cancerous lumps tend to be irregular in shape, and feel as though they are solidly affixed to the breast tissue.
2. Discharge from the nipple
Another signifier of breast cancer is discharge from the nipple. As stated previously, discharge is not always a signifier of cancer. It can be caused by a myriad of things such as menstrual hormonal reasons, pregnancy, and fibrocystic changes.
It is important to be aware of what discharge is abnormal. For example, any discharge that is bloody is not normal and needs to be addressed immediately. Discharge that occurs from only one breast is another thing to watch out for. Seniors should especially be vigilant if discharge occurs when the breast is not stimulated or irritated.
3. Thickening or swelling of the breast
Breast cancer can also manifest in the thickening or swelling of tissue. This is caused by an excess growth of fibrous tissue, and can occur without the appearance of a lump. Thus, it’s important to stay aware of any changes in breast tissue. As stated previously, this swelling can extend from beyond the breast and appear in the underarm or collarbone.