According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of eight women is at risk for developing breast cancer sometime during her life. In the United States this year, more than 230,000 women were diagnosed. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and offers an opportunity to learn more about the disease.
Many factors increase one’s risk of developing breast cancer. Several cannot be controlled, but there are some people can influence to reduce their risk.
The most significant risk factor is age, and most breast cancers are diagnosed in women over 50.
Other risk factors include a prior personal history of breast cancer, or having a blood relative such as a sister, parent or child who has had it. The risk is even higher if the family member developed the disease before age 40.
Some breast cancer risk factors that can be modified through lifestyle changes are being overweight, decreased physical activity and excessive alcohol intake. Read about other risk factors which have been identified at http://www.womenshealth.gov/breast-cancer/risk-factors.
Early detection of breast cancer is the key to survival, and mammography is still the best method to detect it. A mammogram can detect breast cancer before lumps can be felt during breast self-examination or clinical breast examination.
Women should discuss with their healthcare team whether or not a clinical or self-breast examination would be beneficial. People usually know their bodies best and should feel empowered to discuss abnormal changes with their healthcare team.
Current prevention guidelines recommend screening mammograms begin between ages 40 – 50 and continue every two years. Recommendations vary based on individual risk factors, and some women may need to begin screening earlier with more frequent exams than others.
It is important for women to be fully engaged with their healthcare team in discussions and decisions about breast cancer screening to ensure the earliest possible detection possible. Good health is the result of effective communication and teamwork between individuals and the healthcare team. Be informed and actively involved in health-related decisions.
During October, support breast cancer awareness by wearing pink. Talk about breast cancer, and encourage female friends to be aware of their risk. They should engage their healthcare team and if indicated, complete a mammogram.
To schedule a screening mammogram at Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center, call 533.2555.
For additional breast cancer information, go to http://www.womenshealth.gov, or http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast.