Breast Cancer Awareness Month
What You Need to Know
By Maggie Lento, Providence College Class of 2019
Student Intern with the MaineHealth Learning Resource Center
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That’s why you’re probably seeing a lot of pink awareness ribbons this month! Breast cancer is the 2nd most common type of cancer in women. Do you know the symptoms and risk factors of breast cancer? Early detection could save your life.
Am I at risk?
The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in the United States in 2018. Although doctors are not sure what the exact cause of breast cancer is, there are some factors that can increase the risk of developing cancer.
Risk factors include:
• Age 55+
• Being overweight or obese
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Drinking a lot of alcohol
• Never having been pregnant
• Personal history of breast cancer
• Family history of breast cancer
• Starting menstruation before age 12
• Starting menopause at a late age
• Having hormone replacement therapy after menopause
• Dense breast tissue
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
Having a symptom that is listed below does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. If you notice any of these symptoms, please tell your doctor.
• Lump or thickened tissue that feels different from the rest of the breast
• Skin that is red, rough, peeling, scaly, or flaky
• Swelling of the breast
• Clear, thick, or bloody discharge
• Sudden change in size or shape of the breast
• Nipple that has inverted
• Lump or swelling under the arm
How can I lower my risk of breast cancer?
Although breast cancer cannot be prevented entirely, healthy lifestyle choices and mammograms can help to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
Women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Exercising, physical activity, and eating healthy foods can help lower the risk of developing breast cancer. Drinking alcohol can also increase risk. Talk with your doctor about ways to make your lifestyle habits healthier.
Ask your doctor when you should start getting annual mammograms. Early detection of breast cancer can save your life.
In addition to talking with your doctor about healthy lifestyle choices and mammograms, it is also recommended that women perform self-exams on their breasts at least once a month. Ask your doctor for tips on how to perform self-breast exams at home. Your doctor can also perform a breast exam for you during an office visit.
The health educators at the MaineHealth Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today! Be well, be well informed.