HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) — According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. Additionally, the ACS estimates that one in eight women, or 12 percent, in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. About one in 36 women, or 3 percent, will die from breast cancer.
Fortunately, death rates from breast cancer have been on the decline since 1989 as a result of earlier detection through screening, increased awareness and improved treatment. Men are also at risk from breast cancer, but at a lower rate and also need to be screened as needed.
In breast cancer, abnormal breast tissue grows out of control. Symptoms may include the following: lump in the breast or underarm; a change in breast size or shape; thickening, swelling, irritation or dimpling of the skin or nipple; redness or flaking skin around the nipple; nipple discharge other than breast milk; and pain in the breast or nipple. Although these symptoms can occur with conditions other than cancer, women with persistent symptoms should seek medical care.
Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer. These include: older age; a personal or family history of breast cancer (mother, sister, daughter); never giving birth or giving birth later in life; never breastfeeding; starting menstrual cycles at a very young age; starting menopause later in life; taking hormone replacement therapy; being overweight; not exercising regularly; smoking; and drinking more than one alcoholic drink per day.
Having risk factors does not mean you will develop breast cancer. However, it is important to discuss those risk factors with a provider.
Breast cancer screening is the best method to detect breast cancer early and has been found to lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.
Screening tests include mammograms, clinical breast exams by a provider and breast self-exams.
Mammograms are a radiographic image of the breast, and are recommended every one to two years for women 40 years and older. A clinical breast exam is often accomplished as part of the annual well-woman exam. Women should perform breast self-exams at home monthly. To learn more on how to perform breast self-exams, visit www.cancer.org or talk to a provider.