On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. And this year in the US alone, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and 2,620 men.
The good news? There are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States and death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990. This decline is due in part to better screening, early detection and increased awareness.
To do our part in continuing this trend, we’re sharing three things you can do during October to protect your breast health:
- Perform a breast self-exam.The American Cancer Society doesn’t recommend frequent full self-exams for women with average risk. However, they recommend becoming familiar with how your breasts look so it’s easier to detect abnormalities in the future. Take some time this month to perform this convenient, no-cost exam as a part of your overall breast cancer screening strategy.If you do discover a lump or other breast change, don’t panic. Breasts often have some lumps or lumpy areas and most are not However, it never hurts to discuss the change with your doctor — especially if you detect a lump that seems to become larger or more prominent over time. If you menstruate, it may be helpful to wait a full menstrual cycle to see if the change disappears on its own.
- Learn family health history.If you are a woman whose parent, sibling, or child has had a breast cancer diagnosis, you are at a higher risk of breast cancer.Like other cancers, breast cancer is sometimes caused by inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 In some cases, your doctor might recommend genetic counseling based on your family history.So, besides knowing which of your immediate family members have had breast cancer, what do you need to know about your family history?
- Talk to your parents, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. If any had cancer, list at what age he or she was diagnosed. For any that have died (of any cause), list their age at time of death and cause of death.
- Remember that risk for breast and ovarian cancer comes from both sides of the family, not just your mother’s, so don’t forget to include all health history for your father’s relatives, too.
- Update the health history on a regular basis and let your doctor know about any new cases of cancer (of any type) within the family.
- Schedule your annual mammogram. A mammogram is a non-invasive X-ray used to check breasts for breast cancer and other abnormalities. Because 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease and are not considered high risk, screening is of utmost importance to save lives! They help identify cancer at an early stage and have helped reduce breast cancer mortality by 40% since 1990.We recommend that women get their initial baseline mammogram between ages 35 and 40 and continue annual screenings each year after 40. If you have elevated risk in your family or would like to receive a screening prior to age 40, review your family history and any other concerns with your primary care physician who can refer you to a breast specialist if needed.If you’re a resident of Tennessee without insurance, you may be eligible for a free well-woman visit and mammogram screening through the Erlanger Well Woman Early Detection program, in partnership with Tennessee Breast and Cervical Program.
Whether you’re scheduling a breast cancer screening, seeking advice on cancer prevention or living with a cancer diagnosis, the Center for Breast Health offers complete services for breast health at one convenient location. Call 423-778-PINK to schedule your mammogram or learn more at the Center for Breast Health.