October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the breast, it is called breast cancer. Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women.
Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 and older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age. While breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are difficult for women of any age, younger women may find this experience overwhelming.
Many factors can influence your breast cancer risk, and most women who develop breast cancer do not have any known risk factors or a history of the disease in their families. However, you can help lower your risk of breast cancer in the following ways:
• Keep a healthy weight.
• Exercise regularly.
• Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day.
• Avoid exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer.
• If you are taking, or have been told to take hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.
• Breastfeed your babies, if possible.
You can have screening tests that may find breast cancer early:
• Mammogram: Mammography is the best test we have today to find breast cancer early. It can find breast cancer when it is very small and chances for survival are highest. Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk.
• Clinical Breast Exam: A clinical breast exam is done by a doctor or nurse in an office or clinic. They will look at and feel your breasts and under your arms to look for changes or signs of breast cancer. Have a clinical breast exam at least every 3 years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40.
Getting screened could save your life. The Care for Yourself program provides free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings to qualified women. If you’re a woman aged 40-64 years with a household income up to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, you may qualify for free mammograms and pap tests. Regular screening is the best way to prevent and detect cancer at its earliest stages. Please contact Appanoose County Public Health at 641-437-4332 for more information.
Jerilyn Lasley is an administrative assistant at Appanoose County Public Health. Appanoose County Public Health strives to prevent disease, injury and disability as well as promote physical and mental health to the citizens of Appanoose County. We protect and improve the health and wellness of individuals, families, and our community, through education, intervention, and prevention.
Breast cancer is more common in the left breast than the right.