Breast Cancer Awareness: Risk Factors and Symptoms

breast cancer awareness

Cancer is a tricky situation because, although there are risk factors, many times it sneaks up on someone who has no family history, no traditional risk factor, and often is caught in late stages. At Family Practice Specialists, we believe that education is a key element in recognizing not only the risk factors for cancer, but the symptoms of cancer should you not fall into those risk factor categories. So today, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month here in Phoenix, we want to provide some insight into breast cancer risk factors as well as the symptoms that you’ll want to be aware of.


Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Gender – Estrogen and progesterone have been shown to increase the growth of breast cancer cells, and because women have far more of these hormones then men, women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men. Talk to your Phoenix physician about your estrogen and progesterone levels.

Age – According to, about 1 out of 8 invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, while about 2 of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 or older. As you age, your chances for breast cancer increase. Talk to your Phoenix doctor about what other conditions can become more prevalent with age.


Genetics – Over the past few years, genetic research into risk factors for breast cancer have advanced dramatically and really remarkably. As we all learned from Angeline Jolie in her very public medical choices, there are two gene mutations that can greatly increase your chance for breast cancer: BRCA1 and BRCA2. These gene mutations can increase your risk for breast cancer by up to 50 percent! Talk to your Phoenix physician about genetic testing to determine your risk.


Family History – While the majority of breast cancer cases come with no family history, the fact remains that if your mother, sister, father or brother had breast cancer you have increased risk. While over 85 percent of breast cancer diagnosis come with no family history, it is still exceedingly important to discuss family history with your Phoenix doctor.


Breast Conditions – There are breast conditions that can increase risk for breast cancer by up to 5 times. If you have one of the following conditions already diagnosed, talk to your Phoenix physician about risks for breast cancer: radial scar, fibroadenoma, several papillomas, atypical ductal hyperplasia, atypical lobular hyperplasia.


Menstrual Periods – Possibly because of increased exposure to estrogen and progesterone, women who started their menstrual cycles young or went through menopause late are at a higher risk for breast cancer.


Children – Women who have had children before the age of 30 are statistically at a lower risk for breast cancer, as well as women who breast fed. Talk to your Phoenix doctor about the benefits of breast feeding.

Lifestyle – Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can, in fact, lower your risk for breast cancer. Alcohol, obesity and inactivity are all factors that can increase your risk.

To learn more about the risk factors for breast cancer and current research into risk factors ,visit


Symptoms of Breast Cancer


Just because you don’t share any of the risk factors above does not mean you are in the clear and will never become diagnosed with breast cancer. Our Phoenix family physicians think that it’s important you know the symptoms of breast cancer, just in case…


According to, symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)

  • Skin irritation or dimpling

  • Breast or nipple pain

  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)

  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin

  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk


The most common symptom is a lump in the breast. Call your Phoenix doctor immediately if you find a lump of any size in your breast.

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