October is Breast Cancer Awareness: Know Your Risk

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month and because most breast cancers are found in women over the age of 50,  the United States Preventive Task Forces recommend regular screening mammograms every two years for women between the ages of 50 and 74.   In 2013, more than 40,000 women died from breast cancer in the U.S.   Early detection can help diagnose cancers sooner, making them easier to treat and lowering the risk of death.

Although some women will develop breast cancer without any underlying risk, some of the risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Older age
  • Inherited genetic mutations
  • Early menstrual periods(before 12) which expose a women to hormones for longer
  • Late or no pregnancy
  • Late menopause (after age 55)
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity after menopause
  • Dense breasts
  • Hormone therapy for longer than 5 years
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Personal history of breast cancer or other breast disease
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Radiation therapy to the chest or breasts
  • Women who took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among American women.   Symptoms can include any change is the size or shape of the breast, pain, nipple discharge (other than breast milk) or a lump in the breast or underarm.  If you notice any of these changes, see your doctor immediately.

To learn more about being breast healthy and for an online risk assessment tool, visit the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation by following this link.