October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to learn more about the disease and efforts to cure it.
Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer for American women. Approximately 250,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and 2,300 in men each year in the United States.
Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years or older. Other risk factors include genetic mutations, having dense breasts, family history of breast cancer and prior personal history of breast cancer. Staying healthy throughout your life helps reduce cancer risk and improves your chances of survival if it occurs.
Some people have no symptoms of breast cancer, while others may experience the following signs:
- Any change in the size or shape of the breast
- Pain in any area of the breast
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood)
- A new lump in the breast or underarm
If you have any symptoms that concern you, consult your health care provider right away.
Mammograms remain the best way to detect breast cancer early. Although screening doesn’t prevent breast cancer, it helps identify cancer in earlier stages and ideally lead to better health outcomes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website offers comprehensive breast cancer screening guidelines that compare recommendations from leading health organizations.
Your health care provider will help you understand the guidelines, as well as benefits and risks of breast cancer screenings, so you can make personalized and informed decisions. Talk to your doctor about when and how often you should be screened, and which tests are right for you.