Breast cancer will strike one in eight women in the United States. That’s a startling statistic. Everyone seems to know someone with breast cancer – a friend, a mother, an aunt or sister – and we wonder whether we, too, will be affected.
Thankfully, there are some steps to take to lessen your risk. Knowledge and early detection are your best defense.
Did you know?
- Mammography is still the single best tool for breast cancer screening.
- The American Cancer Society, with support from several other medical societies, recommends screening mammograms to start at age 40, yearly or every other year depending on personal risk for breast cancer.
- That you can check your risk at www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool.
- If you have a mother or sister who had breast cancer before age 50, you may have a genetic predisposition for the disease depending upon your personal risk factors.
- Seventy percent of diagnosed breast cancer patients have no known risk factors.
Are you aware of the symptoms?
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
- Redness or rash that does not resolve with treatment.
- A change in the size or shape of the breast.
- New onset of nipple inversion (nipple turns inward into the breast).
- Clear or bloody nipple discharge.
Are you at risk?
No one is immune but there are certain risk factors that make it more likely you will develop breast cancer. These risk factors include:
- Age – breast cancer is uncommon before age 40 and most common after age 60
- Family history of breast cancer in a mother, sister, or daughter, especially if it occurred before age 50
- Early age of onset of menstrual periods (before age 10)
- Late age of onset for menopause (after age 55)
- The older the age a woman has her first child, the higher her risk of breast cancer
- The use of combination hormone replacement therapy (estrogens) in post-menopausal
- Male relative with breast cancer
- Tobacco and alcohol use