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Saturday, October 29, 2011

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month, which means pink ribbons and empty gestures by many people who probably don't even realize what they are doing.  The most important thing about breast cancer awareness is to for women to do monthly self-breast exams.  Pink ribbon stuff is cool, and I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but to just buy pink for breast cancer awareness month misses the whole point.  If you want to make a donation, I suggest making it directly to the charity you wish to donate to.  Most companies give only a very small percentage of their profit to charities.  Your money can be used better by donated directly to a worthy breast cancer research fund, like Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Breast self-exams can be done in the shower, in front of a mirror, or laying down.  I had a friend once who got breast cancer in her 30s.  I've heard of breast cancer hitting women as early as their 20s.  It is never too early to start self breast-exams.  Another very important reason to start now is to learn what your breasts feel like.  Every woman's breasts are different, and some women have lumpier breasts than others.  Learning what is your normal and what isn't will make it possible for you to discover a new lump.  Also, if you still have a menstrual cycle, it is recommended to do a breast self-exam at the same time in your cycle each month.  Some of the known risk factors for breast cancer are being overweight, genetics, gender, age, and exposure to chemicals in plastics.  Remember, men can get breast cancer, too!

Some breast cancer statistics I'd like to share:
  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
  • About 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in men in 2011. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
  • From 1999 to 2005, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. decreased by about 2% per year. The decrease was seen only in women aged 50 and older. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
  • About 39,520 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2011 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1990 — especially in women under 50. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
  • For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
  • Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. Just under 30% of cancers in women are breast cancers.
  • White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women. However, in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women. Overall, African-American women are more llkely to die of breast cancer. Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.
  • In 2011, there were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the US.
  • A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
  • About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. Women with these mutations have up to an 80% risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime, and they are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age (before menopause). An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations.
  • In men, about 1 in 10 breast cancers are believed to be due to BRCA2 mutations, and even fewer cases to BRCA1 mutations.
  • About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
  • The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).


Susan G. Komen for the Cure® recommends that you :

1. Know your risk
  • Talk to your family to learn about your family health history
  • Talk to your health care provider about your personal risk of breast cancer

2. Get screened
  • Ask your health care provider which screening tests are right for you if you are at higher risk
  • Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk
  • Have a clinical breast exam at least every 3 years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40

3. Know what is normal for you and see your health care provider if you notice any of these breast changes:
  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn't go away

4. Make healthy lifestyle choices
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Add exercise into your routine
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Limit postmenopausal hormone use
  • Breastfeed, if you can



Of course, the all important breast self-exam:

Breast Self-Exam (BSE)

Taking a few minutes to do a breast self-exam a minimum of once a month can make a lifetime of difference. Nearly 70% of all breast cancers are found through self-exams and with early detection the 5-year survival rate is 98%. If you find a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor, but don't panic—8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. For additional peace of mind, call your doctor whenever you have concerns.

HOW TO DO A BREAST SELF-EXAM

Step 1

In the Shower

Fingers flat, move gently over every part of each breast. Use your right hand to examine the left breast, left hand for the right breast. Check for any lump, hard knot, or thickening. Carefully observe any changes in your breasts.
Step 2

Before a Mirror

Inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.
Look for any changes in the contour of each breast, a swelling, a dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Then rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women's breasts do.
Step 3

Lying Down

Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head. With the fingers of your left hand flat, press your right breast gently in small circular motions, moving vertically or in a circular pattern covering the entire breast.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.





Breast Cancer Links:

National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

BreastCancer.org

Wikipedia Breast Cancer

National Cancer Institute

Web MD

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