While the month of October may be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, making your breast health a priority should be a year-round effort -- for both men and women.
These 10 pieces of information provided by the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Susan G. Komen can help you better understand the state of breast cancer both in the United States and worldwide and what you can do to look after yourself:
1. U.S. Prevalence: Each year, 220,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. That means one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Although not nearly as common, approximately 2,150 American men will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
2. U.S. Fatalities: Each year in the United States, an estimated 40,000 women and 410 men will lose their battle with breast cancer and die from the disease. This makes breast cancer the second leading causing of death for women, but fatalities are actually more common among men diagnosed with breast cancer because the cancer is usually detected in the late stages.
3. Worldwide Impact: Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed form a cancer for women around the world, impacting countries at all economic levels.
4. Female Symptoms: Women with breast cancer may feel a lump in the breast or armpit or observe changes in the look and feel of their breasts or nipples, including changes in color. Discharge from the nipple may also be present.
5. Male Symptoms: Men with breast cancer will feel a lump in the tissue, just like women do, with a hard mass typically present under the nipple and areola.
6. Female Risk Factors: Females with a family history of breast cancer, mutations in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes or dense breast tissue have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Women who got their first period before age 12, had children late in life or didn't have children at all also have a greater risk.
7. Male Risk Factors: Men with a history of breast cancer in their family (male or female), men with excess estrogen and men who have been exposed to large amounts of radiation have a higher risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.
8. Screening: There have been recent changes to screening recommendations. In addition to monthly self exams, women age 50 and older should have a mammogram every two years unless they have risk factors that warrant earlier and/or more frequent testing.
9. Clinical Trials: Joining a clinical trial not only helps make new treatments available for future patients, but can allow you to try the most promising new treatments for breast cancer. It's important to note placebos aren't used in these trials, so you don't have to worry about not getting treated if you participate -- you'll just be taking medication already widely available.
10. Positive Changes: Both breast cancer diagnoses in women age 50 and older as well as breast cancer deaths in all ages have been on the decline since the 1990s. Researchers believe greater awareness, screenings, genetic testing and a reduction in hormone replacement therapy have all contributed to the decline in breast cancer diagnoses and deaths.
Knowledge is power. Spread the world and keep your breast health a priority. Stay well!