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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Maj. Stacy Slat
  • 375th medical operations squadron
Do you know someone with breast cancer? The answer to this question for most women is yes. With a one in eight lifetime risk for all women, breast cancer affects us all.

In the U.S. this year, 230,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed, and 40,000 deaths will be attributed to this disease.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and it presents an opportunity to educate ourselves on the importance of this sometimes life-ending and always life-changing disease. How can we do that?

First, take responsibility for your health by knowing your family history and making an appointment with your provider to discuss what screening option is right for you.

Second, go to that appointment and get up-to-date on your screening. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends an annual clinical breast exam and mammogram for every woman beginning at age 40 and a clinical breast exam at least every three years for women starting at age 20. Women with other risk factors may require earlier, more frequent, or more aggressive screening. Also recommended are regular breast self-exams to increase breast self-awareness and know what is normal for you, so that when abnormal arrives you will recognize it. If you have a concerning or suspicious breast lump or other abnormality, make an appointment to see your provider.

What else can you do? Reduce modifiable risk factors--these are risk factors that we can control. These include smoking, obesity or being overweight, and lack of exercise, and they can all contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer, as well as increased overall health risk and decreased quality of life.

Finally, spread the word, and encourage the women in your life to do the same. Let's take care of each other.

The 375th Medical Group is sponsoring a symposium in the Medical Group Deltgen Auditorium today from 9-11 a.m. to discuss breast cancer risks and treatments. We have invited guest speakers from various reputable agencies.

Breast cancer affects everyone, and everyone can do something about it. Your primary care provider and the Women's Health clinic at the 375th Medical Group want to serve as your medical home to ensure up-to-date breast cancer screening and awareness. Please call 256-WELL to make an appointment.

Warning signs of breast cancer:
· A lump or pain in the breast
· Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
· Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
· Redness or flaky skin on the breast
· Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
· Fluid other than breast milk from the nipple, especially blood
· A change in the size or the shape of the breast

Breast Cancer risk factors:
If you have risk factors, you may be more likely to get breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about ways to lower your risk and about screening.
Reproductive risk factors
· Being younger when you had your first menstrual period
· Never giving birth, or being older at the birth of your first child
· Starting menopause at a later age
· Using hormone replacement therapy for a long time
Other risk factors
· Getting older
· A personal history of breast cancer, dense breasts, or some other breast problems
· A family history of breast cancer (parent, sibling, or child)
· Changes in your breast cancer-related genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2)
· Getting radiation therapy to the breast or chest
· Being overweight, especially after menopause