October, the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is coming to a close (Happy Halloween!) and we at CPR Savers wanted to remind everyone that while you enjoy your treat-filled holiday, you should keep in mind what else this month is about.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women (skin cancer being the first), and can even affect men. Last year, it was estimated that 290,000 women would be newly diagnosed with breast cancer and around 40,000 would die to the disease. If you haven't recently, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
One breast cancer risk factor is breast density, but a recent showed that most women don't know much about the topic. The University of Virginia Breast Care Program interviewed 1,024 randomly selected women in Virginia who were between the ages of 35-70, and found that although 90% of them said they were checked for breast cancer within the last five years, 30% said they were not familiar with "breast density."
And only 5% could correctly answer three questions about breast density knowledge.
Dense breasts have more glandular and fibrous tissue, rather than fatty tissue. This makes mammographs less sensitive because there is more tissue to scan. Further, it is linked to a higher occurance of breast cancer in women, due to factors like higher estrogen production. It is recommended that those with dense breast tissue have a mammogram every year.
An even greater risk factor, however, is generic heredity. It's believed that 5-10% of breast cancers are caused by abnormal genes passed from a parent. While the average American woman has about a 12% chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime, women with these abnormal genes are thought to have an 80% risk.
If you have had a blood relative from either side of the family who developed breast cancer before the age of 50, and/or there are incidents of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer from the same side of the family, you are more likely to have the breast cancer gene. If a man in your family has had breast cancer, this also increases your risk.
But whether or not you have an abnormal gene, studies suggest that exercising, eating healthy, limiting your alcohol intake, and not smoking can help lower your risk.
Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
There are various suggestions for women, but it's important to consider your personal and family history. According to the American Cancer Society,
- Women between ages 40-44 may begin annual breast cancer screening with mammograms.
- Women between ages 45-54 should get annual mammograms.
- Women over the age of 54 may slow down to mammograms every other year.
- Annual or biennial mammograms should continue as long as the woman is in good health and expected to live for another 10 or more years.
However, women of all ages and backgrounds should be familiar with their breasts and the signs of breast cancer, and women with risk factors should consider MRI screening in addition to mammograms (talk to your doctor if you think you may have a high risk).
For more information on Breast Cancer
For more information on risk factors, diagnosis procedures, and treatment, visit Breastcancer.org.