Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer awareness month and it’s a good time to create awareness of breast cancer symptoms, early detection screenings and an understanding of breast cancer.  The statistics say that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life.  I bet most people know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  As with all cancer, early detection is paramount to being a breast cancer survivor. Maine-ly Elder Care has developed a list of risk factors, symptoms and early detection methods of breast cancer.  So, let’s start with risk factors:

Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for breast cancer.  Men can develop breast cancer, but this disease is about 100 times more common among women than men.  This is likely because men have less of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can promote breast cancer cell growth. 

  • Age- your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older. 
  • Genetic Risk factors- about 5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, resulting directly from gene defects call mutations, inherited from a parent.  There are genetic tests available to look for gene mutations, but the pros and cons need to be considered carefully. 
  • Race- overall Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer then African –American women.
  • Having children- women who have had no children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk. 
  • Physical activity- evidence is growing that physical activity in the form of exercise reduces breast cancer.  I guess the question is how much exercise and one study suggests as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman’s risk by 18%.   

Here are some early detection screenings that will help detect breast cancer early on and improve the odds of survival:

  • Mammogram the best way to find breast cancer early is with a mammogram, if you are a women age 50 or older be sure to have a mammogram every two years.  If you are a woman under the age of 50 you should have a baseline mammogram before the age of 50, unless you have a genetic risk factor for cancer then mammogram screenings should start at an earlier age.   A mammogram is simple, quick and not to painful, I would say it is uncomfortable more than painful. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast and it can detect breast cancer before you notice any change in your breast. 
  • Breast self exam- monthly breast self exams is a great way to become familiar with your breasts and notice changes to your breasts early on. 
  • Clinical breast exam- this is a breast exam done by a doctor or a nurse.

Symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A lump or mass in the breast that you can feel or see
  • Swelling in the armpit
  • Clear or bloody nipple discharge
  • Pain or discomfort in the nipple or breast
  • Inverted or retracted nipple

This month is a great time to take a proactive approach to breast cancer by being familiar with your risks and the symptoms. 

~ Denise Stevens RN, CEO

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