At KHS we join all of the breast cancer charities, support groups, researchers, health professionals and especially survivors to recognize October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Founded in 1985 to promote mammography screenings, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is now an international health campaign designed to increase awareness, prevention, treatment and ultimately a cure for breast cancer.
According to the CDC, other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. Getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. If you are 50 to 74 years old, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are 40 to 49 years old, talk to your doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram.
Below please find the risk factors and symptoms that lead to 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of her lifetime (according to PubMed Health):
Risk factors you cannot change include:
- Age and gender — Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older. Women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men.
- Family history of breast cancer — You may also have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have a close relative who has had breast, uterine, ovarian, or colon cancer.
- Genes — Some people have genes that make them more likely to develop breast cancer. If a parent passes you a defective gene, you have an increased risk for breast cancer.
- Menstrual cycle — Women who got their periods early (before age 12) or went through menopause late (after age 55) have an increased risk for breast cancer.
Other risk factors include:
- Alcohol use — Drinking more than 1 – 2 glasses of alcohol a day may increase your risk for breast cancer.
- Childbirth — Women who have never had children or who had them only after age 30 have an increased risk for breast cancer. Being pregnant more than once or becoming pregnant at an early age reduces your risk of breast cancer.
- DES — Women who took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage may have an increased risk of breast cancer after age 40. This drug was given to the women in the 1940s – 1960s.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — You have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have received hormone replacement therapy with estrogen for several years or more.
- Radiation — If you received radiation therapy as a child or young adult to treat cancer of the chest area, you have a much higher risk for developing breast cancer.
- Obesity — Obesity has been linked to breast cancer, although this link is controversial.
The National Cancer Institute provides an online tool to help you figure out your risk of breast cancer. See: www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool
Early breast cancer usually does not cause symptoms. This is why regular breast exams are important. As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
- Breast lump or lump in the armpit that is hard, has uneven edges, and usually does not hurt
- Breast pain or discomfort
- Bone pain
- Change in the size, shape, or feel of the breast or nipple — for example, you may have redness, dimpling, or puckering that looks like the skin of an orange
- Fluid coming from the nipple — may be bloody, clear to yellow, green, and look like pus
- Men can get breast cancer, too. Symptoms include breast lump and breast pain and tenderness.
- Symptoms of advanced breast cancer may include:
- Skin ulcers
- Swelling of one arm (next to the breast with cancer)
- Weight loss
Fast Facts About Breast Cancer (CDC)
- Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 women get breast cancer and more than 40,000 women die from the disease.
- Men also get breast cancer, but it is not very common. Each year in the United States, about 2,000 men get breast cancer and about 400 men die from the disease.