Breast Cancer Awareness Month is October
The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). According to Wikipedia, multiple charities nationally recognize the month of October to raise awareness and funds to help with researching the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure. In addition, the campaign also offers assistance, information and support to those suffering from breast cancer.
Statistics of Breast Cancer
According to BreastCancer.org:
About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2019, it’s estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.
For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).
About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
The alarming numbers above indicate that there is a common misconception that you’re more likely to get breast cancer if you have a first degree relative who has been diagnosed than if you do not. Although a woman’s risk is nearly double if she has a first-degree relative with a history of breast cancer, the fact that about 85% of breast cancers occur in women with no family history is worth noting.
Many risk factors are beyond your control such as age, race, family history and medical history. As always, be sure to talk to your doctor about your risk factors for breast cancer. There are some associated risk factors that you can control and should take steps at minimizing for your overall health and wellbeing. According to BreastCancer.org, these are some behaviors you can adapt to help reduce your risk of breast cancer:
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintain a healthy diet (some associations have been made with diets low in fat reducing risk of breast cancer)
Reduce alcohol consumption (Alcohol can limit your liver’s ability to control blood levels of the hormone estrogen, which in turn can increase risk.)
Talk to your doctor about your oral contraception
Reduce stress and Anxiety (There is no clear proof that stress and anxiety can increase breast cancer risk, however there is proof that reducing stress and anxiety can improve your immune system.)
Early Detection of Breast Cancer
Early detection is so critical and can be life saving with breast cancer and that is why knowing the symptoms, performing screening and self-breast exams is so important. The National Breast Cancer Foundation has a free symptom guide that you can download by visiting their website here.
According to the American Cancer Society, any of the following unusual changes in the breast can be a symptom of breast cancer:
swelling of all or part of the breast
skin irritation or dimpling
nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
a nipple discharge other than breast milk
a lump in the underarm area
If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns. Sometimes these changes can be signs of something such as an infection, cyst, benign fibrous tissue, or something else. But it’s important to not ignore any changes that occur in your breasts and get checked early by your doctor.