October is the month that many people choose to wear pink in support of breast cancer awareness. Learn about the second most common cancer in women and how to detect it.
There are over three million people in America living with breast cancer. Each year, more than 220,000 people in the United States are diagnosed and over 40,000 people die because of the disease.
Most breast cancer is caught in stage one or two. When caught in these stages, the five-year survival rate is upwards of 85%. However, if the cancer progresses, survival rates significantly drop. The best thing you can do to make sure breast cancer is caught early is to recognize the symptoms and head to your doctor ASAP if you think you may have the disease. Additionally, women 50-75 should plan to have a mammogram every two years.
Help us spread awareness of this disease by encouraging your friends and family to undergo appropriate and timely breast cancer screenings.
Signs of breast cancer:
Know the signs of breast cancer and if you believe you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. Men can get breast cancer as well as women, so don’t write off symptoms just because you are male!
- Lump(s) in the breast or underarm
- Change in breast size/shape
- Swelling or pain in breast
- Bloody nipple discharge
- Dimpling/puckering of skin/nipple or nipple that suddenly inverts
When should you start screening for breast cancer?
There is much debate over the best time to start screening for breast cancer.The American College of Ob/Gyn (ACOG), American College of Surgeons (ACS) and American Medical Association (AMA) all recommend that regular screening mammography should begin at age 40, while the US Preventive Service Task Force (USPTF) recommends starting at age 50 (in average risk women). The timing of when you should get your first mammogram is an individual decision, and but it should be decided with the help of your doctor. Potential downsides of mammographic screening, particularly when done too early, include false positives, over diagnosis and unnecessary biopsies. Those with higher risks of breast cancer, particularly those who have family members with breast cancer diagnosed before age 50, may benefit more from early screening. Women aged 50-75 should schedule a mammogram at least every two years.
Timing of mammograms for women over 50 is another topic of much debate. The ACOG, ACS and AMA all recommend annual mammography, while the USPTF recommends screening mammograms every two years. There is a general consensus that screening mammograms should continue in healthy women as long as their life expectancy is 7-10 years.
You can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by making the following changes in your life:
- Cut down on alcohol
- If you are a smoker, quit.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat foods high in vitamins and minerals like fruits and veggies
- If you have a newborn, consider breastfeeding, if possible
You can also talk to your doctor about your birth control and postmenopausal hormone replacement. Some birth control pills increase the risk of breast cancer development, however, this may be balanced out by a decrease in the risk of developing other cancers, such as ovarian cancer. Prolonged postmenopausal hormone replacement has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer development and needs to be discussed with your gynecologist.
If you have any questions about breast cancer, or whether or not you should be screened, our breast cancer surgical specialists – Dr. Deborah Kerlin, Dr. Elizabeth Cunningham and Dr. Mary Cardoza – are always happy to help.