Get out your pink ribbons, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and for good reason.
The American Cancer Society predicts more than 230,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, and more than 40,000 will die. Men are affected by breast cancer too but in much smaller numbers (less than 500 deaths per year).
But the news is not all bad. Breast cancer rates are on the decline largely due to increased awareness about risk factors and the importance of early detection. The sooner breast cancer is detected, the greater the survival rate (read more about that here.)
Know the Risks
Women over 50 and those with changes in a BReast CAncer (BRCA) susceptibility gene have the greatest risk of developing the disease. You can learn more about BRCA genes from the Centers for Disease control. They also have a link to an online tool you can use to estimate your risk of having a BRCA gene mutation.
Risk factors for breast cancer fall into two categories: those you have no control over, and those you can do something about. Both are listed below:
- Age 50+
- Caucasian race
- Family history of breast cancer
- Personal history of breast cancer
- Dense breast tissue
- Early menstruation (before 12)
- Late menopause (after 55)
- Poor diet
- Sendentary lifestyle
- Frequent Alcohol consumption
- Chest radiation
- Combined hormone replacement therapy
If you want to learn more, the American Cancer Society has a thorough description of risk factors here.
Know the Symptoms
Breast cancer is not always symptomatic, especially when in the early stages. As breast cancer progresses, symptoms can become more obvious. The following symptoms in one or both breasts may be considered warning signs of breast cancer:
- Dimpled or depressed skin
- Lump in breast or armpit
- Pulling-in or newly inverted nipple
- Change in color
- Bloody discharge
- Change in shape or size
- Change in skin texture
- Pain or swelling
If you are worried about these or any other changes in your breasts, make an appointment to see your doctor right away. To learn more, check out Understanding Breast Changes: A Health Guide for Women from the National Cancer Institute.
Know Your Plan
Multiple tests are used to screen for breast cancer. These include mammography, breast self exam, ultrasound and other less well known tests. Choosing how and if you will be screened for breast cancer is a personal decision that you should make in consultation with a trusted health care provider.
As you discuss your options for breast screening with your doctor, the two of you will consider factors such as your age, your specific risk factors, and your attitudes about breast cancer and its treatment. Together you can formulate a plan for breast cancer screening for now and the future.
If you have any questions or concerns about your risk factors, symptoms, or screening tests, we will be happy to discuss them with you. Remember, the best way to beat breast cancer is to catch it early–one of the best ways to do that is to know the facts.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation
Bras for the Cause event in downtown Greenville, Texas October 8, 2015
Centers for Disease Control Breast Cancer fact Sheet
Photo Credits © shsphotography, eveleen007, & camomer via Dollar Photo Club.