Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Prevention, Early Detection and Hope
Breast cancer is one the second most common cancer in American women, next to skin cancer. It is estimated that more than 240,000 new diagnoses of women of the disease will occur in 2021 alone. In addition to new diagnoses, this disease kills over 40,000 women each year, and while primarily found in women 50 and older, this disease can also affect younger women. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month aimed at making individuals aware of preventing, early detection, and getting the help needed to fight this cancer.
Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer
The most common risk factors for breast cancer are:
- Being a woman.
- Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older.
- Changes in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
You can do things to help lower your breast cancer risk.
- Keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
- Don’t drink alcohol or limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
- If you are taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, ask your doctor about the risks.
- Breastfeed your children, if possible.
Keep Up the Good News
Since 1990 a decline in the rate of breast cancer has occurred. This is due primarily to two factors: (1) prescribing of hormone replacement therapies has declined, and better screening along with early detection. This early detection is critical to starting treatment early and giving a cancer patient the best chance of recovery.
Early detection means finding and diagnosing a disease earlier than if you’d waited for symptoms to start. The most recognizable early detection test is a mammogram. Mammograms are low-dose x-rays of the breast. Regular mammograms can help find breast cancer at an early stage when treatment is most successful. A mammogram can often find breast changes that could be cancer years before physical symptoms develop. In recent years, a newer type of mammogram called digital breast tomosynthesis (commonly known as three-dimensional [3D] mammography) has become much more common, although it’s not available in all breast imaging centers.
Recommendations for mammograms is as follows:
- Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
- Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year or choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least ten more years.
- All women should understand what to expect when getting a mammogram for breast cancer screening – what the test can and cannot do.
Treatments Continue to Evolve
Breast cancer treatments continue to evolve with research, clinical trials, and spotlight attention on this disease. Based on stage, if it has metastasized yet or is localized to the breast and even your personal medical history will impact the treatment your medical team can build for you.
Treatments today can include:
- Standard Treatment vs. Clinical Trials
- Metastatic Breast Cancer Trials
- Lymph Node Removal & Lymphedema
- Breast Reconstruction
- Radiation Therapy
- Hormone Therapy
- Targeted Therapy
- Physical Activity, Wellness & Nutrition
- Follow-Up Care
October helps bring awareness of this deadly disease for women and, in some cases, men. In our lifetime, most of us will know someone that this disease has touched. Getting the word out about how to detect, continue research to cure this cancer, and even provide treatment options to those impacted is what this month is all about. Whether you are someone dealing with this disease firsthand, caring for someone going through it, have suffered the loss of someone to breast cancer, or want to lend a hand to cause that matters, this month is for you. Educate yourself about symptoms, early detection, organizations leading the charge in this big battle, cutting-edge research, treatment options, and become aware of this cancer during October.
Photo courtesy of Deposit Photos