It is hard to miss that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! But, now that the month is coming to a close and we have worn every pink item in our closets, donated money and walked to our hearts content …do you really know what you NEED to know about this disease?
Beyond all of the pink frilly knee socks and Save Our Boobies stickers, there is still a great need for education so that we can prevent falling victim to breast cancer. This is underscored by the statistic that 1 in 8 women with be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. This is by no means a rare disease, yet we still have women dying every day because they were diagnosed too late or did not receive timely treatment. It is important that we take an active role in our health, which includes learning the risk factors and symptoms of breast cancer.
Common risk factors for breast cancer 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
• 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.
For a full list of possible risk factors for breast cancer, visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
• 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
• Fluid coming from the nipple
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
During the early stages of breast cancer some individuals do not experience any symptoms, which is why staying up to date with mammograms is crucial. A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breasts used to find tumors. According to current guidelines set by the National Cancer Institute, women 40 years and older should get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years. If you have had breast cancer or have a family history of breast cancer, consult your physician regarding the appropriate frequency of the test. Self breast exams (SBE) can also be helpful to early detection of abnormalities. No one knows your body better than you do, so use that knowledge to protect yourself! For instructions on how to perform a self breast exam, visit www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam.