October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it is a great time to educate yourself about the disease and what prevention measures you can take to prepare yourself. The pink ribbons you see around you are a constant reminder of those who have survived and continue to fight back against breast cancer, as well as those who have passed on.
According to the American Cancer Society in 2008, 1 in 8 women have a chance of developing a case of “invasive breast cancer” in their lifetime, or about 12 percent.
While survival, with early detection and remaining vigilant of early warning signs, averages around 85 percent, breast cancer accounts for roughly a quarter of all cancer occurrences in women in the United States.
Cancerous cells are formed when cells, which normally grow and divide in an orderly fashion, begin to grow out of control. These cells may form a tumor and tumors may be benign (and do not spread to other cells or tissues) or malignant (cells that spread to other tissues). When a malignant tumor forms in the breast tissue, it is considered breast cancer.
Treatment options range from surgery to remove the affected tissue, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and other therapies, depending on the type of breast cancer and how much it has spread.
Male breast cancer, though extremely rare, can develop and is often ignored in early stages. It is important for men, especially older than 60, to be aware of any changes in their chest area.
The best prevention, for both men and women, is to be aware of changes in their breast and become familiar with the status quo for your body.
A mammogram is an x-ray of your breasts and is often the best course of action for early detection of breast cancer. It can even be detected by a mammogram up to three years before you feel it yourself either accidentally or through a self-breast exam.
The specialist will place your breast on to a clear plastic plate, while another plate will firmly press from above on a special X-ray machine. The plates will flatten and hold the breast still while an X-ray is taken. Similar views of the other breast, as well as from the side, will also be captured.
The process, although often helpful, is uncomfortable for the vast majority of women, even painful for some. Luckily, the process only takes a few moments and could save your life.
Other detection methods include regular mammograms beginning at the age of 40, annual breast exams by a physician, monthly breast self-exams and speak with your regular physician about possible risk factors such as exercise, alcohol intake, family history, breast feeding and weight gain.
Stay alert and aware and have a great October!