By Giuliana Cilliani, PA-C
Each year, throughout the month of October we wear the color pink to symbolize breast cancer awareness.
This annual event is held to fundraise breast cancer research, celebrate survivors and increase awareness for the second-leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 43,600 women in the United States are expected to die from breast cancer this year.
The good news is that breast cancer deaths are decreasing. The death rate from female breast cancer dropped 40% from 1989 to 2016. The decrease is credited to increased awareness, early detection through screening, and improved treatment.
While we cannot completely prevent breast cancer, there are ways we can lower our risk for the disease by doing the following:
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Eating a healthy diet
• Exercising regularly
• Avoiding or limiting alcohol drinks
• Avoiding the use of cigarettes
Regular breast cancer screenings are vital to detect early signs of cancer in order to treat it before it has a chance to grow, spread, or cause any further problems. These screenings are performed through a special kind of X-ray called a mammogram. We start screening at the age of 40 annually or once every 2 years. However, women that are considered high risk for breast cancer should consult with their healthcare provider to decide if screening should start earlier.
Healthcare providers can’t stress enough the importance of monthly breast self-exams. You can perform a breast self-exam right at home while showering or lying down and looking for any of the following: a lump, changes in the size and/or shape of your breast, swelling or redness, breast pain, nipple discharge or rash, or skin dimpling (like an orange peel). If you see any of these signs, then you should report it to your healthcare provider immediately.
The next time you see a pink ribbon or someone wearing a breast cancer awareness shirt, make it a reminder to check your breast and schedule your annual or biennial mammogram screening.