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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month


October 27, 2021 | View PDF

Lincoln – According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women (after lung cancer.) October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, provides an ideal opportunity to promote healthy habits that can lessen the chances of developing the condition, and teach warning signs that may indicate breast cancer.

While heredity can play a part in having breast cancer, about 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop breast cancer during their lifetimes. However, it’s also important to remember that men, too, can get breast cancer; about 1 percent of cases occur in men. Like women, men often feel a lump when breast cancer is present. Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many factors over the course of a lifetime can influence your breast cancer risk. You can’t change some factors, such as getting older or your family history, but you can help lower your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health in the following ways—

Keep a healthy weight.

Exercise regularly.

Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks.

If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.

Breastfeed your children, if possible.

If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your risk.

Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. The CDC recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram. Women should weigh the benefits and risks of screening tests when deciding whether to begin getting mammograms before age 50.

Warning signs of breast cancer include:

• A new lump in the breast or in the armpit.

• Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.

• Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

• Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.

• Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

• Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.

• Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.

• Pain in any area of the breast.

Two of the most well-known genes that can mutate and raise the risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who inherit a mutation in either of these genes have a much higher than average risk of developing breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer. Men with these mutations also have an increased risk of breast and possibly prostate cancer.

You are substantially more likely to have a genetic mutation linked to breast cancer if:

You have blood relatives (grandmothers, mother, sisters, aunts) who had breast cancer diagnosed before age 50.

There is both breast and ovarian cancer on the same side of the family or in a single individual.

You have a relative(s) with triple-negative breast cancer.

There are other cancers in your family in addition to breast, such as prostate, melanoma, pancreatic, stomach, uterine, thyroid, colon, and/or sarcoma.

Women in your family have had cancer in both breasts.

You are of Ashkenazi Jewish (Eastern European) heritage.

You are Black and have been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35 or younger.

A man in your family has had breast cancer.

There is a known breast cancer gene mutation in your family.


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