By Dr. Patricia Hayes
October is breast cancer awareness month — and for good reason. After skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women and the second-leading cause of cancer death among women. Currently, the average risk of a woman in the U.S. developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 12 percent.
Most breast cancer is found in women over 50 but can appear earlier. Some risk factors include: being overweight, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, having a family member with breast cancer, starting your period before the age of 12 or having inherited gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Research shows, the following healthy choices can help decrease your breast-cancer risk:
- Eating healthy
- Not smoking
- Limited alcohol intake
Breast cancer is sometimes found after symptoms appear, but many women with breast cancer have no symptoms. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. For this reason, it is important to have any new breast mass, lump or breast change (such as discharge, pain or a change in breast size or shape) checked by a health care professional. Finding breast cancer as early as possible gives you a better chance of successful treatment.
Screening tests, such as mammograms, help find cancer early before symptoms arise and improve chances of survival. Your primary care physician can assist you with determining which screening tests you need to stay healthy.