October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, after lung cancer. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 276,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women, and more than 42,000 women will die from the disease. While breast cancer is rare in men, they do represent about one percent of all breast cancer cases.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease that causes cells in the breast to multiply out of control. Most breast cancers begin in the ducts or lobules. Breast cancer can potentially spread outside the breast and through blood and lymph vessels. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is said to have metastasized.
Some warning signs of breast cancer can include:
- New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit);
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast;
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin;
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast;
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area;
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood;
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast; or
- Pain in any area of the breast.
When detected early, breast cancer is treatable and survivable. In fact, there are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, including women and men in remission or currently undergoing treatment.
Get in the habit of doing a regular breast self-examination to familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel. Regular mammograms are another way to help you lower your risk and find any symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size that may be of concern. Review the Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines for Women chart to see which breast cancer screening tests are right for you, and when you should have them.
Reduce Your Risk
Know your breast cancer risk factors and be proactive about your health. Taking steps to lower your risk may also help you detect the disease at an early stage:
- Get regular cancer screening tests;
- Maintain a healthy weight;
- Exercise regularly;
- Eat a healthy diet;
- Avoid smoking and tobacco use;
- Breastfeed your children, if possible; and,
- Limit alcohol.
Contact your physician if you have questions about breast cancer and before you start any new diet or exercise plan. For resources and scientifically accurate information about breast cancer visit the CDC breast cancer website.