Women’s Health

Breast Cancer awareness ribbon

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time each year to think about the incidence, risk factors, and warning signs of breast cancer, the most common cancer in women (after skin cancer) and also occurs in men.

In 2020, over 300,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women, and over 42,000 will die from the disease. One in eight women will be affected by the disease in her lifetime. On a positive note, there has been a gradual reduction in breast cancer incidence in women of over 50 and death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990. These changes are attributed to better screening, early detection, increased awareness and improving treatment options.

Annual mammography is the standard for breast cancer screening. Most medical associations recommend annual mammography beginning at age 40 for women. For those at high risk for breast cancer or who have found a lump, other tests may be recommended such as a sonogram or MRI. According to Dr. Susan Greenstein Orel, Mammography plays a critical part in diagnosing breast cancer. In the past, we’d often find that a woman had breast cancer when she came in with a lump. Today, the cancers radiologists find on mammography are usually detected early, before they can be felt by the patient, are smaller than cancers felt by patients, and have much lower levels of lymph node involvement.”[i]

Risk factor for breast cancer include:

  • Gender – More women than men, but about 2,550 men per year are diagnosed in the U.S.
  • Stress – Chronic stress lowers immune function
  • Unhealthy diet – Fats from processed foods are linked to increased risk
  • Age – Increased risk in those 55 and older
  • Family history – risk is two times greater with incidence in an immediate family member
  • Smoking – Younger women who smoke have a higher risk that their peers.

People have different symptoms of breast cancer, and some may have no symptoms at all. Warning signs may include:

  • New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.

These symptoms can occur with other conditions that are not cancer.

This October, schedule a mammogram if you have not had one this year. This is the best way to early detection and a cure.

[i] https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/mammograms/benefits_risks