October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and for most reading this, Breast Cancer has impacted your life either as Survivor, Friend or Family Member. This month is about bringing awareness, early detection, informed methods of treatment, and support. One of the definitions of a cancer is any evil condition or thing that spreads destructively. As bad as that sounds, it can be an understatement when discussing the impact of any cancer. When you think about the phrase “Knowledge is power”, it is considerably applicable to Breast Cancer Awareness.

The statistics behind Breast Cancer are scary ones. Breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women after skin cancer. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.

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The GOOD NEWS is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.

    • If you are a woman age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them

    • If you are a woman age 50 to 74, be sure to get a mammogram every 2 years. You may also choose to get them more often.

    Early detection is key and monthly self-breast exams might seem incidental, but you know your body better than anyone. Changes in your breast, are always cause to see your physician. Mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.

    According to the American Cancer Society, it is vital for early detection to perform monthly breast exams, but there are other symptoms to look for other than a lump in your breast.

    These include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)

  • Skin irritation or dimpling

  • Breast or nipple pain

  • Nipple retraction

  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin

  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)

Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours had breast or ovarian cancer. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms.

There are things that we can do in our daily lives that can help. Many factors over the course of a lifetime can influence risk of breast cancer. Some of these factors are beyond your control, like your family history and even age, but you can help lower your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health in the following ways—

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Limit alcohol consumption

  • Talk to your doctor and become informed on your risks if you are taking hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives.

  • Breastfeed your children, if possible.

  • If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your risk.

Always keep in mind to listen to your body. True, that every little change in your body doesn’t mean that there is something wrong, but sometimes being safe, and overly precautious is better than a regretful alternative.

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