October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
What are all those pink ribbons about? Those ribbons represent support for women with breast cancer, and support for programs that work to detect, treat, and hopefully cure breast cancer. Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in women.
Are you at risk for breast cancer?
Simply being a woman and getting older puts you at risk for breast cancer. One out of 8 women in the United States will get breast cancer at some time in their life. The older you are, the greater are your chances of getting breast cancer. Most breast cancer occurs in women over 50 years of age, but cases can be seen in younger women as well.
Native American women are at higher risk for cancers in younger women.
You are also at higher risk if your mother, sister, or daughter has had breast cancer. Many women do not know they have breast cancer until it is advanced. Finding the disease early may save your life, and can greatly change the treatment and outcome of a woman with breast cancer.
How can you detect breast cancer?
Breast cancer starts as a lump in the breast. At the early stages, this lump is so small that it cannot be felt from the outside. However, a mammogram can often detect cancer at this stage. A breast exam by a health care provider every year is also an important way to detect the larger cancers.
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is a X-ray picture of the breast. A mammogram along with a breast exam by your doctor or nurse can find breast cancer at an early stage when it can best be treated. A mammogram does not cause cancer.
Mammograms can save your life by finding breast cancer early. A mammogram can show cancer that is too small for you or your doctor to feel. When breast cancer is found early, you have more treatment options.
What is the best method of detecting breast cancer as early as possible?
A high-quality mammogram with a clinical breast exam (an exam done by a health care provider) is the best way to find breast cancer early. Like any test, mammograms are not perfect. For example, some cancers cannot be seen by mammogram, but may be found by breast examination.
Checking one's own breasts for lumps or other unusual changes is called breast self-exam. While we encourage women to examine their own breasts for lumps, you still need to get checked by a health care provider and have a mammogram even if you do not feel a lump in your breast.
Breast self-exam should not take the place of clinical breast exam and mammography. Mammograms can detect breast cancer that cannot be felt.
Who should get a mammogram?
Women in their 40s and older should get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years. A woman's chance of getting breast cancer is greater as she gets older. Women who are at higher than average risk of breast cancer (such as those who have a mother or sister with breast cancer) should talk with their health care providers about whether to have mammograms before age 40 and how often to have them. Be aware that mammograms don't take the place of getting breast exams from a health care provider and examining your own breasts.
If you find a lump or see changes in your breast, talk to your health care provider right away no matter what your age. Your health care provider may order a mammogram for you to get a better look at your breast changes.
Age and health history can affect the risk of developing breast cancer.
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Risk factors for breast cancer include:
Age over 50 years;
Early age at menarche (your first period)
Older age when having your first baby or never being pregnant;
A personal history of breast cancer;
A mother or sister with breast cancer;
Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest;
Hormone use (such as estrogen and progesterone);
Caucasian (Anglo) race.
Remember, mammograms can save your life by finding breast cancer early. A mammogram can show cancer that is too small for you or your doctor to feel. When breast cancer is found early, you have more treatment options. Many women live healthy lives after treatment for breast cancer- but finding it early, when it is small, is very important in deciding what treatment is best.
For yourself and your family, call your health care provider for an exam and mammogram today. In Tuba City, you may contact the Women's Clinic at the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation at (928) 283-2460 to make an appointment. Also, for further information about breast cancer screening and prevention, you may contact the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention Program in Tuba City at (928) 283-2796 or (928) 283-2132.
The TCRHCC Wellness Committee would like to thank the Tuba City Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention Program for their review of this article.
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