Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Vol. 11 No. 2


One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Because of its wide reach, women need to be aware of their risks and the signs of the disease for early detection. As part of your wellness program, share the following information with your faculty and staff in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The following information is from PubMed Health

There are two main types of breast cancer:

  • Ductal carcinoma starts in the tubes (ducts). Most breast cancers are this type.
  • Lobular carcinoma starts in the parts of the breast called lobules, which produce milk.
  • Rare cases of breast cancer start in other areas of the breast.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Risk factors you cannot change include:

  • Age and gender—Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older. Most advanced breast cancer cases are found in women over age 50. Women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men.
  • Family history of breast cancer—You may also have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have a close relative who has had breast, uterine, ovarian, or colon cancer. About 20%–30% of women with breast cancer have a family history of the disease.
  • Genes—Some people have genes that make them more likely to develop breast cancer. The most common gene defects are found in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes normally produce proteins that protect you from cancer. If a parent passes you a defective gene, you have an increased risk for breast cancer. A woman with one of these defects has up to an 80% chance of getting breast cancer sometime during her life.
  • Menstrual cycle—Women who got their periods early (before age 12) or went through menopause late (after age 55) have an increased risk for breast cancer.

Other risk factors include:

  • Alcohol use—Drinking more than 1–2 glasses of alcohol a day may increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Childbirth—Women who have never had children or who had them only after age 30 have an increased risk for breast cancer. Being pregnant more than once or becoming pregnant at an early age reduces your risk of breast cancer.
  • DES—Women who took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage may have an increased risk of breast cancer after age 40. This drug was given to the women in the 1940s–1960s.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)—You have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have received hormone replacement therapy with estrogen for several years or more.
  • Obesity—Obesity has been linked to breast cancer, although this link is controversial. The theory is that obese women produce more estrogen, which can fuel the development of breast cancer.
  • Radiation—If you received radiation therapy as a child or young adult to treat cancer of the chest area, you have a much higher risk for developing breast cancer. The younger you started such radiation and the higher the dose, the higher your risk—especially if the radiation was given during breast development. Breast implants, using antiperspirants, and wearing underwire bras do not raise your risk for breast cancer. There is no evidence of a direct link between breast cancer and pesticides.


Early breast cancer usually does not cause symptoms. This is why regular breast exams are important. As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:

  • Breast lump or lump in the armpit that is hard, has uneven edges, and usually does not hurt
  • Change in the size, shape, or feel of the breast or nipple—for example, you may have redness, dimpling, or puckering that looks like the skin of an orange
  • Fluid coming from the nipple—may be bloody, clear to yellow, green, and look like pus

Men can get breast cancer, too. Symptoms include breast lump and breast pain and tenderness. Symptoms of advanced breast cancer may include:

  • Bone pain
  • Breast pain or discomfort
  • Skin ulcers
  • Swelling of one arm (next to the breast with cancer)
  • Weight loss

Learn more about breast cancer at PubMed Health.

Another great resource to include in your faculty and staff newsletter is from the American Cancer Society. This site also offers a downloadable PDF.

Additional ISM resources of interest
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Directors Vol. 9 No. 1 Schools Don't See The Humor In This Year's Breast Cancer Awareness Message
ISM Monthly Update for Risk Managers Vol. 1 No. 2 Wellness Programs in Private-Independent Schools
ISM Monthly Update for Business Managers Vol.9 No. 6 Setting Goals for a Healthier School
ISM Monthly Update for Buiness Managers Vol. 10 No. 8 Rises in U.S. Health Care

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