October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, a time to pay special attention to one of the leading causes of cancer and death in women across the globe. The main goal is to raise awareness of the disease and help women worldwide who need it.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women in the United States, followed only behind lung cancer; about 1 in 8 women will develop some form of invasive breast cancer throughout her life. However, there are signs to pay attention to and steps to help catch breast cancer early; please take a look.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
Many symptoms may be a sign of breast cancer, which is why it is so important to check yourself regularly and bring anything out of the ordinary to your doctor’s attention. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should talk to your GP or gynecologist immediately:
- A lump or swelling in either breast, upper chest, or armpit
- A change to your skin, including puckering or dimpling
- A change in the color of your breast, generally red or inflamed
- A change in your nipple, such as (new) inverted nipples
- Rashes or crusting around your nipple
- Discharge or other unusual liquid from your nipple(s)
How do I check my breasts?
Checking your breasts is something that can be done in your own home, with no medical training or practice necessary. Instead, you should pay attention to your breasts and notice any changes in the feel or look. If anything looks or feels different, even if it seems minuscule, you should tell your doctor. While a difference in your breasts may not be related to breast cancer, the earlier it is detected, the better chance you can beat it.
While it is imperative to check your breasts to be aware of any possible changes, it’s also important to note that breast cancer screenings, such as mammograms, can often detect signs of breast cancer before symptoms appear. Mammograms allow for earlier detection, where the tumor is smaller and still limited to the breast. Unless directed by a doctor, women should begin receiving yearly mammograms at age 40; women ages 55 and older can opt to have mammograms every other year, but there is no harm in receiving these x-rays yearly.
Contrary to popular belief, about 85% of women with breast cancer have no family history. However, a woman’s risk of breast cancer almost doubles if she has an immediate relative who was also diagnosed, such as her mother, sister, or daughter.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please take the time to check yourself for any signs, schedule your yearly mammogram appointments, and talk to your doctor if you notice any changes. Encourage the women in your life to take these precautions, too. The best way to fight cancer is through early detection. If you’re interested in learning more or donating to help, many resources are available, such as BreastCancer.org, National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., and Breast Cancer Now.