October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which was created to increase awareness of the disease and raise money for research for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Approximately 1 in 8 women born in the United States today will get breast cancer at some point. Nearly everyone is directly impacted or knows someone affected by this disease. The good news is the vast majority will survive if the cancer is identified and treated early.
While breast cancer is not fully preventable, there are things you can do to reduce your chances and it starts with healthy habits. To reduce your risk, you can do the following:
- Limit alcohol,
- Don’t smoke,
- Maintain healthy weight,
- Stay active physically,
- Limit exposure to radiation and environmental toxins,
- Know your medical family history,
- Discuss hormone therapy dose and duration with your doctor if currently taking.
While prevention can decrease your chances of getting cancer, early diagnosis is the most effective way to reduce breast cancer mortality. For many women, mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early; a mass can show up before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms and is easier to treat when found early. It is recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that all women between 50 and 74 get mammograms at least every 2 years, and anyone between 40 and 49 discuss when to start and how often to get mammograms with their primary care doctor.
Breast MRIs are used along with mammograms to screen women at higher risk for breast cancer and are not used for women at average risk.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
If you have any of the following symptoms schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately to discuss:
- Lump or thickening in breast or underarm,
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of breast,
- Change in size or shape of breast,
- Dimpling or puckering of skin,
- New pain in breast
- New rash on breast
- New nipple discharge.
As always, if you have any concerns about your health, you should talk to your health care provider.
DISCLAIMER: Sarah Smith MD is a medical doctor, but she is not your doctor, and she is not offering medical advice on this website. If you are in need of professional advice or medical care, you must seek out the services of your own doctor or health care professional.