October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month across the nation. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in women with one out of every eight women developing breast cancer their lifetime. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States. Approximately 39,510 women and 410 men in the U.S. are projected to die from breast cancer this year.
According to Gail Whitehead with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, "This year, approximately 226,870 women in the U.S. will receive a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer and 63,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer." She added, "In addition, although male breast cancer is rare and accounts for less than 1 percent of all breast carcinomas in the U.S., about 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year."
The best way to find and lower your risk of breast cancer early is with a mammogram. If you are a woman age 50 years or older, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are age 40-49 years, talk to your doctor about when and how often you should have a screening mammogram. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.
Although many women get breast cancer, it is not a common cause of death. According to the CDC, breast cancer is the fifth leading cause of death. Heart disease is the number one cause of death among women age 40 and above, followed by stroke, lung cancer, and lung diseases.
When breast cancer starts out, it is too small to feel and does not cause signs and symptoms. As it grows, however, breast cancer can cause changes in how the breast looks or feels. Symptoms 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.
All women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.
Additionally, there are several ways to lower your risk of breast cancer such as controlling your weight and exercise, knowing your family history of breast cancer, knowing the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy, and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink. Lastly, It is important to speak with your provider if you have any concerns.