October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

breast-cancer-awareness

Each year approximately 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and of those diagnosed approximately 40,000 women die from the disease. October is breast cancer awareness month with the hopes of lowering these numbers by encouraging women to get regular mammograms and lower their own risk of dying from breast cancer.

Breast cancer is an overgrowth of cells in the breast tissue. When it starts out, it is too small to notice or feel and does not produce any signs or symptoms. As it progresses and enlarges, it can change the way the breast looks, feels, and functions. Symptoms of breast cancer may include:

  • A new lump in the breast or underarm.
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
  • Nipple discharge other than milk, such as blood.
  • Change in breast size or shape.
  • Any pain in the breast.

These symptoms tend to occur when the disease is farther along. However, early detection is possible with regular mammograms. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to look for early signs of breast cancer, before it produces symptoms. A mammogram can detect breast cancer as early as three years before it can be felt. Women over the age of 50 should have mammograms every 2 years and women between the ages of 40 and 49 should talk to their doctor about mammograms, especially if they have a family history of breast cancer.

Lowering your risk of dying from breast cancer can be done through frequent mammograms as well as monthly self-exams to monitor for any lumps or any of the changes listed above. However, you can also follow a few steps to lower your risk of getting breast cancer, including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising.
  • Knowing your family history of breast cancer.
  • Finding out the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy (some can increase the risk of breast cancer).
  • Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Speak with your doctor. Determine your risks. Then talk with your mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, best friend, co-workers. Encourage each other to have a mammogram. Your family and friends will thank you!

To find a low cost screening location near you visit www.nbcam.org

Find out more about breast cancer : www.nationalbreastcancer.org

For information about doing a breast self-exam: www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam

South County Internal Medicine
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