October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which the cells in the breast grow out of control. The type of breast cancer depends on which kind of breast cell is growing: the ducts (the tubes that carry milk to the nipple) or the lobes (glands that make milk). These cells can spread and travel to other parts of the body and cause problems. This is called “metastatic breast cancer.” Breast cancer is by far most common in women, though men can get it.
How Common is Breast Cancer?
In 2018 it is estimated:
There is a 1 in 8 chance a woman will develop breast cancer in her life.
About 266,120 new cases of invasive or fast-moving breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
About 40,920 women will die from breast cancer.
Know Your Risk
Risk factors for developing breast cancer include:
The risk increases with age
Inherited changes to certain genes like the BRCA1 gene
Women who start their period before age 12
No pregnancy or having first pregnancy after the age of 30
Starting menopause after age 55
Using combination hormone therapy (estrogen and progesterone) either in birth control or after menopause
Having dense breast tissue
Radiation therapy (as a treatment for other cancer) on the chest
Increased alcohol consumption increases the risk
Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce some of these risks.
Breast Cancer Screening
Adult women are encouraged to perform self-breast exams once a month to identify any changes as soon as possible.
Check out how to perform your own self-breast exam at home: https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam
Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)
This is an exam done by a doctor or other health professional who is trained in performing breast exams and can be done at your regular yearly check-up.
Your doctor will inspect the look of your breasts while you are sitting up and then physically inspect them while you are lying down.
If a CBE is not offered to you at your check-up, ask your doctor if they are able to perform one or can refer to someone who can.
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast tissue and can often identify a lump before it can be felt in a self-exam or before there are symptoms.
Recommendations on what age to begin having mammograms differs between the professional organizations and should be based on your age and individual risk factors for breast cancer.
Talk to your doctor about when you will need a mammogram.
If You Find a Lump
Don’t panic if you find a lump. Most lumps are not breast cancer. Breast tissue is naturally a lumpy texture. If your breasts are consistently lumpy throughout and has not changed, it may just be normal breast tissue. Any lumps that are different than the rest of your breast or if they are especially hard, it should be checked as soon as possible.
When in doubt, get it checked out!
If you need help finding an in-network doctor, our team of care managers can help find one near your home.