October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Oct 12, 2017

Too many of us have lost friends and loved ones to breast cancer, so increasing awareness of how to detect and treat it is very important. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns and spread the word to those you care about this month.

Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each year, more than 200,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 die from this terrible disease.

Early detection is the key to increasing chances of survival.

Men can also get breast cancer, but it is not very common.

Most breast cancers are found in women 50 years or older, but this disease also affects many younger women. About 10 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45.

Getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. If you are older than 50, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are over the age of 40, talk to your doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram.

Breast cancer symptoms are variable, and some people have no symptoms at all. Symptoms can include any change in the size or the shape of the breast, pain in any area of the breast, nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood), and a new lump in the breast or underarm. If you have any signs that worry you, see your doctor right away.

Some main factors that influence your risk for breast cancer include being a woman and being older. Most women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors and no history of the disease in their families.

There are things you can do to can help lower your breast cancer risk:

- Keep a healthy weight.

- Exercise regularly (at least four hours a week).

- Research shows that lack of nighttime sleep can be a risk factor.

- Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day.

- Avoid exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer (carcinogens) and chemicals that interfere with the normal function of the body.

- Limit exposure to radiation from medical imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans if not medically necessary.

- If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.

- Breastfeed any children you may have, if possible.

If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may be at high risk for getting breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about more ways to lower your risk.

Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer, and improve your chances of surviving cancer if it occurs.

Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. Talk to your doctor about which breast cancer screening tests are right for you, and when you should have them.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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