October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. A mammogram – the screening test for breast cancer – can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Breast cancer is not one single disease – there are several types of breast cancer. It can be diagnosed at different stages and can grow at different rates. This means that people can have different treatments, depending on what will work best for them.The biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer are getting older, being female and, for a few, having a significant family history of the disease. Just over 80% of breast cancers occur in women who are over the age of 50. Nearly half of all cases are diagnosed in people in the 50-69 age group.
Most cases of breast cancer happen by chance. Only around 5% of breast cancers are caused by inheriting an altered (faulty) gene. Breast cancer can affect women with small breasts, medium breasts, large breasts – any size breasts. Breast size is irrelevant. Currently there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, therefore, early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured. If detected late, however, curative treatment is often no longer an option.
Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer. Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. But if you discover a persistent lump in your breast or notice any changes in breast tissue, it should never be ignored. It is very important that you see a physician for a clinical breast exam. He or she may possibly order breast imaging studies to determine if this lump is of concern or not. This requires a careful selection of one or more of the major treatment modalities – surgery, radiotherapy and systemic therapy – a selection that should be based on evidence of the best existing treatment given the resources available. Take charge of your health by performing routine breast self-exams, establishing ongoing communication with your doctor, getting an annual clinical breast exam, and scheduling your routine screening mammograms.
There are several benign (not cancer) conditions that can occur in the breast and may cause a lump. Also many women will experience lumpy breasts just before their period. This is a normal response to changing hormones and often the lump or lumpiness disappears after the period. However, if this doesn’t go away, it’s important to get it checked out by a doctor. Any new lump should always be assessed by a doctor, regardless of your age or whether you are still having periods or not.