Women’s Health: Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Get educated to reduce your risk
Breast Cancer Awareness Month was created through a collaborative effort by national associations and organizations that are focused on women's health, according to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website. The goal is to teach women how to reduce their risk of the disease and detect it early. Breast cancer is sometimes preventable through lifestyle changes and in many cases curable if it's found before it has spread.
Breast cancer by the numbers
There will be nearly 230,000 new cases of breast cancer among U.S. women in 2012. Another 2,190 men will also be diagnosed with the disease. An estimated 39,000 women and 400 men will die from breast cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
While some women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a relative with the disease (heredity is one risk factor), many others don't have a family history at all, according to the Office on Women's Health.
But they may have other risk factors, including the following:
- History of benign breast changes
- Dense breast tissue, which is something your doctor can see on a mammogram
- Being overweight
- Drinking alcohol on a regular basis
- Not getting enough exercise
Take steps to reduce your risk
While you can't control some of the risk factors for breast cancer, you can take steps to reduce your chances of being diagnosed by:
- Staying active
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Limiting your alcohol consumption
In addition to taking steps to prevent breast cancer, women should also stay alert to breast changes. Visit your doctor if you notice any of the following changes in your breast or under your arm such as:
- A lump
- Thick or firm tissue
- Changes in size or shape to your breast or nipple
- Discharge from your nipple
- Skin changes on your breast, such as dimpling, redness, puckering, redness or scaling
But don't panic if you notice a change, many of the symptoms above can be the result of noncancerous breast conditions, but only a doctor can tell the difference.
Screening saves lives
In addition to being vigilant it's also critical to get screened if your doctor recommends it. Regular mammograms may help your doctor detect breast cancer in its early stages and begin treatment quickly. Don't hesitate to get screened because you think it's too costly. There are low-cost screening services available. For more information visit www.nbcam.org to find a low-cost screening center near you.
The good news is that today most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer survive the disease. Being aware of your body and its changes can help doctors find the disease when it is most treatable, according to the Office on Women's Health.