Every October, the color pink appears in many places as a reminder of breast cancer awareness and support for a cure. These efforts are important to highlight during October, but for women, they need to extend throughout the rest of the year as well.
Awareness of breast cancer risk and symptoms should be public knowledge, just as we know what to look out for when someone has the flu or a concussion. The more we know about breast cancer, the better the chances of detecting abnormalities before cancer develops or detecting cancer in its early stages when treatment has its highest potential for success.
Five things women need to know about breast cancer
- Risk factors for breast cancer aren’t always straightforward, but can include:
- Tobacco use
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Age (women age 50 and older are more at risk)
- Genetics (certain genes pose an increased risk)
- A family or personal history of cancer, including breast cancer
- Self breast exams are necessary, and women should perform them from the comfort and privacy of their own homes about once a month. An ideal time is a few days after your period ends as your breasts as less likely to be tender or swollen during this time and you can establish a baseline for appearance and feeling. If anything new or unusual is detected, please contact your doctor as soon as possible to schedule an appointment for a professional exam.
- Breast cancer can be both caught and treated early! Please do not ignore symptoms, which include:
- A lump or lumps in the breast
- Swelling (can occur even without a lump being felt)
- Changes to the nipples (pain, turning inward, redness, dryness, thicker texture)
- Dimpling in the skin or irritation
- Discharge from the nipple area
- A change to the size or shape of the breast
- There is no way to prevent breast cancer, but you can avoid some known risk factors and work toward early detection. Doctors will advise maintaining a healthy lifestyle to improve overall health and longevity and decrease your risk, but breast cancer can be present in even the healthiest women and men who have never once smoked a cigarette or have no family history of the disease.
- Aside from skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women. In 2019, over 300,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. For an estimated 40,000 women, breast cancer will prove fatal this year. We can work to decrease the rate of breast cancer fatality by ensuring that women are fully aware of how to perform self breast exams and the symptoms they need to watch for.
Questions? Please contact PGOMG today.