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Breast Cancer Spotlight: What You Should Know

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the perfect time to schedule a mammogram!

Because breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. One in eight will be diagnosed.

Because with early detection, treatment is highly successful, with a 98 percent survival rate.

Because a mammogram is the most effective screening tool for detecting breast cancer early before any symptoms appear.

A mammogram is simply an X-ray picture of your breasts. The American Cancer Society offers the following screening guidelines for women with an average risk for breast cancer.

  • Age 40 to 44 – Women should have the choice to start screenings if they wish to do so.
  • Age 45 to 54 – Women should have a mammogram every year.
  • Age 55 and older – Women can switch to having a mammogram every two years or continue with a yearly screening. Screening should continue as long as the woman is in good health.

Be Proactive: Know Your Risks

If you have any of the risk factors for breast cancer, be sure to discuss them with your healthcare provider. You may need to have a mammogram at an earlier age and/or more often. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Family History: If you have a first-degree relative (mother, daughter, sister) who has had breast or ovarian cancer, your risk is doubled.
  • Previous Breast Cancer: Cancer in one breast results in a three- to four-fold increased risk of cancer in the other breast.
  • Breast Density: Women with denser breast tissue have a higher risk for breast cancer.

Stay Alert: Signs of Breast Cancer

You should see your healthcare provider immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • A lump in the breast, in or near the armpit, or near the collarbone
  • Swelling
  • Skin redness or irritation
  • Thickening or dimpling of the skin
  • Pain in the breast or nipple
  • Changes in the nipple, such as it turning inward
  • Discharge from the nipple that is not breast milk

Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer:

  • Limit your alcohol: The risk of breast cancer is 20 percent higher for women who consume two to three alcoholic drinks per day.
  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit. It’s the single best thing you can do to improve your health.
  • Control your weight. After menopause, being overweight or obese increases your risk.
  • Stay physically active: Regular exercise appears to reduce the risk of breast cancer by 10 to 20 percent, especially in postmenopausal women.

Take Action!

Mammograms are free for all women over age 40 and who have no symptoms of breast cancer. You can schedule a free mammogram every one or two years, and you don’t need a prescription from your provider. The actual exam takes about 10 to 15 minutes, and the entire appointment usually takes less than an hour. That’s not much time at all when you consider the potential life-saving benefit of detecting breast cancer early.

Sources: CDC, webmd, Susan G. Komen,

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