October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Mammography Day is October 22. Our goal, as a practice, is to raise awareness through educating women and helping them by providing excellent preventative care.
Protecting women against the dangers of late stage cancer begins with preventative measures that include regular screenings. Maintaining optimal health and choosing to make preventative care a priority can save a women’s life. The best way to do that is to do a monthly self exam and to schedule mammograms every one to two years beginning at age 40, or earlier if there‘s a family history of breast cancer under 50 years old.
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. The mutated cells can invade surrounding tissue, but with early detection and treatment, most people can continue a normal life. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, with one in eight women diagnosed in their lifetime. As the second leading cause of death among women, each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.
Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 410 men will die each year. Male breast cancers are more often familial (hereditary) whereas breast cancer in women is more commonly sporadic (random). Screening recommendations can differ in women with many family members with breast cancer, and individual risk can be calculated with the Tyrer-Cuzick model (www.ems-trials.org/riskevaluator).
In recent years, perhaps coinciding with the decline in prescriptive hormone replacement therapy after menopause, there has been a gradual reduction in female breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 50 and older. Death rates from breast cancer have also been declining since 1990, in part due to better screening, early detection, increased awareness, and improved treatments options. Thankfully only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer, but women (and men) should see a physician if they discover a persistent lump in the breast or notice any changes in breast tissue such as dimpling, new inversion of nipples or nipple discharge.
Mammography is the best available method to detect breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage. In fact, mammography can detect cancer cells an average of one to three years before a woman can feel a lump. Mammography also identifies cancers too small to be felt during a clinical breast examination.
With awareness comes prevention, and in the end that alone is saving lives. If you would like more information about breast cancer, please contact us, we’d be happy to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians or midwives.