October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a time to raise awareness about the importance of this disease and detecting it early. About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime according to breastcancer.org. Because of this staggering statistic, we put together a list of frequently asked questions about this disease:
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a common term for a cancerous (malignant) tumor that starts in the cells that line the ducts and/or lobes of the breast and can also invade surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body.
What causes breast cancer?
The cause of breast cancer is not exactly clear, but studies have identified numerous risk factors for breast cancer in women, including hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that may increase the risk of the disease.
Who gets breast cancer?
Each year it is estimated that over 252,710 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. While breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
How can you detect breast cancer?
Early detection is key to survival with breast cancer. Fortunately, there are several ways to help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat.
- Breast Self-Exams – Every woman should perform a breast self-exam once a month. If you notice any changes alert your doctor.
- Clinical Breast Exams – Performed by a health professional who is trained to recognize any abnormalities in breast tissue, a clinical breast exam can be done by your general physician or gynecologist at your annual visit.
- Mammograms – Women who are 40 and over should get a mammogram every year.
What are the treatment options?
The good news is that most people can survive breast cancer if it’s detected and treated early. There are many different treatment options available with a breast cancer diagnosis that can be discussed with your physician depending on the stage and severity of the disease.
What can I do right now?
Some risk factors (such as having a family history of breast cancer) cannot be avoided. But there are some changes you can make to help reduce your risk of developing breast cancer and other diseases:
- Eat a nutritious diet and maintain a healthy weight
- Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke when possible
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Incorporate exercise into your daily routine
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, focus on making simple lifestyle changes and scheduling your annual physical exams. Help us raise awareness and inform others of how to reduce the risk of a breast cancer diagnosis. And remember to wear pink throughout October!