Knowing risk, screening and signs of breast cancer

October is a month that is known for pumpkin picking, hayrides and beautiful fall foliage. The month is also synonymous with breast cancer awareness and features walks, fundraisers and nationwide comradery to raise awareness, as well as funds, to beat the disease. This cause is as important as ever, with approximately 1 in 8 women in the United States developing invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.

"With this number in mind, we can see that it is imperative for all women to know their personal risk for breast cancer, to get all recommended screenings, and to recognize the signs of breast cancer. Early detection can make all the difference in patient outcomes," explains Laura Klein, M.D., Medical Director, The Valley Hospital Breast Center.

Know Your Risk

Ask yourself the following questions regarding your breast cancer risk:

  • Do you have a family history of breast cancer?
  • Do you have a personal history of breast cancer?
  • Do you have history of breast atypia (abnormal breast tissue)?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, please make sure to discuss your risk factors with your physician.

Get Your Mammograms

"All women should make a commitment to themselves to go for all recommended breast cancer screenings, which are also referred to as mammograms," adds Dr. Klein. "Early detection can save your life!"

  • Ensure that you have a clinical breast exam yearly from age 20 to 40
  • Begin scheduling annual mammograms and clinical breast exams at age 40
  • Work with your physician to plan additional breast cancer screenings if your mammogram shows dense tissue or you are high risk for developing breast cancer

Know What is Normal for YOU!

In order to recognize when something might be wrong, you must familiarize yourself with what is normal for you and your body. By understanding your baseline, you will be better prepared to recognize potential symptoms of breast cancer such as:

  • Lumps, thickening or knots in the breast or underarm
  • Breast swelling, warmth, redness or color changes
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Dimpling or puckering of the breast tissue
  • Development of an itchy, scaly rash
  • Nipple changes
  • Persistent pain in a new spot on the breast

If you have any concerns about your breast health, contact your physician as soon as possible.

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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