October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lifetime and according to the Centers for Disease Control, 1,170 cases of breast cancer were reported in Idaho in 2015. There is not one specific cause but scientists do know that mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes can greatly increase one’s risk of developing breast cancer. If a family member has had breast or ovarian cancer, you may be more likely to have inherited one of those mutations. Other risk factors include obesity, hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills, alcohol intake, or having dense breasts. Additionally, your risk of developing breast cancer, as with any other form of cancer, increases with age. It is very treatable if detected early, so monitoring your breasts is imperative. You can, and should, begin performing self-breast exams at an early age. Please notify your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- Change in shape or size
- Discharge from the nipple
- Dimpling of the skin
- Inversion of the nipple
- Lumps in the breast of any size
Annual pelvic exams, beginning around the age of 21, include a clinical breast exam by a provider. Finally, it is recommended that all women get breast imaging, known as a mammogram, beginning at age 40, and every one to two years thereafter. Women with a family history of breast cancer or a known BRCA mutation can begin mammograms before the age of 40 to promote early detection. www.nationalbreastcancer.org is an excellent resource with information and ways you can contribute to the health of women across the country and the research being done to further the scientific knowledge about this disease.