October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 13, 2010 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

This month marks the 25th anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States and is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer alone is expected to account for 28 percent of all new cancer cases among women in 2010. About 40,000 women will die from the disease this year.

Early Breast Cancer Detection

The most common signs of breast cancer are a lump in the breast, abnormal thickening of the breast, or a change in the shape or color of the breast. But remember, finding a lump or change in your breast does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines for finding breast cancer early in women without symptoms:

  • Mammogram: Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. While mammograms can miss some cancers, they are still a very good way to find breast cancer.
  • Clinical breast exam: Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a regular exam by a health expert, preferably every three years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health expert every year. It might be a good idea to have the CBE shortly before the mammogram. You can use the exam to learn what your own breasts look and feel like.
  • Breast self-exam (BSE): BSE is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should report any changes in how their breasts look or feel to a doctor or nurse right away.
  • Women at high risk: Women with a higher risk of breast cancer should talk with a doctor about the best early detection plan for them. This might mean starting mammograms when they are younger, having extra screening tests, or having more frequent exams.

Most of the time breast changes are not cancer, but consider seeing a doctor right away if you notice any of these changes:

  • A lump or thickening in any part of the breast
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Swelling, redness or warmth that does not go away
  • Pain in one spot that does not vary with your monthly cycle
  • Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
  • A discharge other than breast milk
  • Redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin

For more information about mammography screening, visit the American Cancer Society’s website.

Entry filed under: Managing your health, To Your Health.

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