Whether or not it affects you, your family, or your friend, breast cancer will touch your life at some point in time. By understanding the warning signs of breast cancer and your risks you will be able to recognize what is normal and more importantly what is not normal.
Even with early detection and improvement in the treatment of breast cancer, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many people to put off their regular breast cancer screenings. The pandemic also caused a disruption in the progress of breast cancer research and treatment programs.
While a mammography can serve as a method for early detection, not all breast cancers are found with a mammography. Early detection of breast cancer is an important part of treatment and includes a thorough physical examination as well as a breast self-examination. Current guidelines from the American College of Radiology and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend screening mammograms and physical breast examinations every year beginning at age 40.
The reason Breast Cancer Awareness Month is held every year in October, since 1985, is to promote the screening and prevention of the disease. It raises awareness of the one in eight women in the United States that are affected by breast cancer. Its aim of the month is directed at:
- Supporting people – women and men – who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, including metastatic breast cancer
- Educating people about the risk factors of breast cancer
- Emphasizing the importance of regular screenings, usually starting at age 40, or at an age appropriate for your risk factors
- Fundraising for more research
Included in Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a week devoted to Men’s Breast Cancer Awareness Week. In 2021, President Joseph Biden designated October 17th through October 23rd for raising awareness of men who are expected to be diagnosed with the disease. Lack of awareness can be a barrier to breast cancer detection and treatment.
The Statistics of Breast Cancer
More than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. In 2022, it has been estimated that almost 44,000 people, 43,250 women, and 530 men are going to die due to breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 9% of new cases are found in women under the age of 45. While black women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer they are 42% more likely to die from the disease because they are more likely to have a more aggressive form of breast cancer starting at a younger age. Men have also been diagnosed with breast cancer but it is not very common. Most women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50 but it also affects younger women. About 10% of new cases of breast cancer are found in women younger than 45 years of age.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer symptoms can include the following:
- A newly formed lump in the breast or armpit
- Pain in any area of the breast
- Fluid coming out of the nipple
- A thickening or swelling of a part of the breast
- A change in the size, shape, or feel of the breast
- A redness, flakiness, or dimpling in the skin around the nipple or breast
- The nipple becoming inverted or pulling in
Know Your Risks
By knowing your family’s health history you and your doctor will be able to determine how that affects your breast health and your risks of developing breast cancer. Even if you are at average risk of developing breast cancer, have a mammogram every year. If you do have signs of breast cancer, finding it early and treating it early could be a lifesaver. Know what is normal for you and your body. If it doesn’t seem normal, advocate for yourself with your healthcare provider.
If you are concerned about developing breast cancer, there are steps you can take that can help. You can make changes to your lifestyle that are within your control. Try by maintaining a weight that is healthy, limit your consumption of alcohol, and make sure to exercise on a regular basis.