National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. According to the American Cancer Society, 1-in-8 women in the United States (about 12%) will develop breast cancer sometime in her life. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. Other possible symptoms include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
  • Skin irritation or dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)

Some women who have breast cancer do not have any symptoms which make regular screening vital to early detection. Early detection gives individuals a better chance of successful treatment.

Women who are at average risk for developing breast cancer have the option to start screening with a yearly mammogram between the ages of 40 and 44. At 45 to 54 years of age, it is recommended that women have a yearly mammogram. Women 55 and older may choose to continue yearly mammograms or reduce frequency to every other year. Screenings should continue as long as a woman is in good health and expected to live 10 years or longer. For women who are at high risk, the American Cancer Society recommends a yearly MRI and mammogram beginning at age 30.

Women, at any age, should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel so they may be aware of and report any concerning changes to their healthcare provider.