Recognizing Early Signs of Breast Cancer in Seniors

Recognizing Early Signs of Breast Cancer in Seniors

Breast cancer is a challenging and scary health issue, affecting millions of lives worldwide each year. In seniors, the stakes can be even higher due to their increased vulnerability.

However, like we always say at VIPcare, early detection remains your number one weapon against this disease. Recognizing early signs of breast cancer in seniors is vital to treatment and survival. There is a 100 percent survival rate of five years when caught early.

Every two minutes, a woman in the U.S. is diagnosed with breast cancer. It is the most common cancer among women worldwide, regardless of age. In fact, age is one of the most significant risk factors for breast cancer in women.

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Early Signs of Breast Cancer in Seniors

Roughly two out of three invasive breast cancers are found in women 55 or older. This, alone, poses its own sets of challenges.

Seniors, in particular, face unique challenges when it comes to diagnosis and treatment. Our aging bodies may not respond as well to treatment, making early detection much more crucial.That’s why knowing these early signs and symptoms of breast cancer is so important.

Changes in Breast Tissue

One of the earliest signs of breast cancer in seniors is a change in breast tissue. While aging can naturally alter breast tissue, seniors should remain vigilant in watching for any noticeable changes to the breast or underarm such as lumps, thickening, or changes in size and shape.

You may feel embarrassed or hesitant to discuss these changes if you notice them. However, it’s essential to have open and honest communication with your provider. VIPcare is a safe, non-judgmental space for you to express your concerns.

Unexplained Pain or Discomfort

Breast cancer can sometimes manifest as pain or discomfort in the breast or nipple. It can be easy to quickly attribute such discomfort to aging, but persistent or unexplained pain should never be ignored.

Don’t downplay your discomfort or dismiss it as a minor issue. Seek medical advice right away to determine what is causing your pain.

Nipple Changes

Changes in the nipple, such as inversion or unusual discharge, can be early signs of breast cancer in seniors. You should be aware of these subtle changes and report them promptly to your healthcare provider. It’s important not to panic and not fear the worst if you notice any of these types of changes. By seeking medical advice early, it can significantly impact your outcome.

Skin Abnormalities

Skin changes in the breast area, including redness, dimpling, or puckering, can also be a sign of breast cancer. It’s easy to overlook such skin abnormalities or pass them off for something else, but you should always discuss them with your provider. Even if it turns out to be nothing more than an innocent rash, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.

Swelling in the Armpit or Collarbone

Lymph nodes in the armpit or collarbone can become enlarged if breast cancer has spread. Seniors should be vigilant for any swelling in these areas.

Again, if you notice this particular sign, don’t panic. Schedule an appointment with your provider to assess. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the possibility of cancer, but you need to stay calm and collected to make rational and informed decisions.

American Cancer Society Screening Recommendations

In the video above, you’ll hear about the American Cancer Society’s recommendations for early detection of breast cancer. The society calls for screenings at regular intervals, with those intervals being different depending on each person’s risk factors.

For Women at Average Risk

Women are considered at an average risk for breast cancer is they have no personal history or strong family history of the breast condition, do not have any genetic mutations associated with higher risk, and haven’t had chest radiation therapy before age 30.

Here is the recommended screening schedule:

  • Age 40-44: optional yearly screening with mammogram
  • Age 45-55: should get a mammogram annually
  • Age 55+: Continue yearly screening with mammogram at least every other year

For Women at High Risk

Women at a high risk for breast cancer should get a breast MRI and a mammogram every year starting around age 30, according to the society. You are considered a high risk if you:

  • have a risk assessment that puts you at a 20%-25% or greater chance of being diagnosed in your lifetime (mostly based on family history)
  • have genetic testing that shows a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • have a parent, sibling, or child with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • had chest radiation therapy before age 30
  • have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome or a close family member has one of these syndromes

What is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray that is crucial in the early detection of breast cancer. They are capable of finding changes in the breast long before any physical symptoms appear. Finding the problem sooner means you may not need an aggressive treatment like a mastectomy or chemotherapy.

Two main uses of mammograms are screening and diagnostic.

Doctors use a screening mammogram for patients who have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. Providers will take an x-ray image of each breast, often in two different angles.

A diagnostic mammogram is used when the patient shows any symptoms of breast cancer or have been treated for breast cancer in the past. They often include extra x-ray images of angles that usually aren’t used for screenings.

Early Detection With VIPcare

Recognizing early signs of breast cancer in seniors is crucial in ensuring your treatment and overall wellness. By fostering open communication and active listening with your provider, you can increase your chances of early detection and successful treatment.

Ultimately, early detection offers seniors a fighting chance against breast cancer. In addition to watching and checking for early signs of breast cancer, you should continue to receive annual mammograms to ensure early diagnosis, improved treatment options, and better outcomes.

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