October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As October approaches orange and black aren’t the only fashionable colors, pink is one of the colors in support of breast cancer awareness, especially the pink ribbon—the national symbol for breast cancer awareness. So when you see those pink ribbons, remember:

Breast cancer will affect an average of one in eight women sometime in their lifetime.

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer related deaths in women.

Numerous studies prove that early detection is a vital component in the successful treatment of breast cancer.

Breast self-exams and mammograms play a central part in the early detection of breast cancer.

What is the cause of breast cancer?

Although the exact cause of breast cancer is not known, most experts agree that several things can increase your risk of breast cancer. One is being female though breast cancer can also occur in men; aging also increases your risk of breast cancer.

Conditions that can raise your risk of breast cancer:

Personal history. Women who have dense breasts*, have a breast disease that is not cancer, or have had breast cancer before have an increased risk.

Family history. A woman’s risk of breast cancer increases if her mother, sister, daughter, or two or more other close relatives, such as cousins, have a history of breast cancer, especially if they were diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50 or younger, although 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer had no family history.

Breast changes. This is why regular self-breast exams are important so you recognize any changes in your breasts.

*Women with dense breasts will benefit from 3-D mammography, available locally at the Kearney Breast Center

Other things that increase the risk of breast cancer:

Race. Breast cancer occurs more often in white women than in black, Hispanic, or Asian women.

Radiation therapy. Women whose breasts were exposed to significant amounts of radiation at a young age, especially those who were treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, have an increased risk for breast cancer.

Not breast-feeding. Women who don’t breast-feed have a higher risk of breast cancer than those who breast-feed. The more months of breast-feeding, the lower the breast cancer risk.

Alcohol. Your risk goes up the more you drink. For the best health, women should have no more than 1 drink a day or 7 drinks a week.

Hormones. Female hormones play a part in some types of breast cancer.

*You begin menstruation before age 12 and start menopause later than age 55.

*You have your first baby at a later age or you do not bear any children.

*You have extra body fat or gain weight later in life.

Things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer:

Maintain a healthy weight. Fatty tissue produces estrogen and high exposure to estrogen is related to breast cancer risk.

Make exercise part of your daily routine. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-to-intense activity most days of the week.

Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day.

Avoid exposure to pesticides. 

Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, low-fat and high fiber foods.

Practice regular breast self-exams and get regular mammograms (annually after age 40).

Remember – early detection saves lives.


Ruth A. Melvin R.T. Manager, PeaceHealth Kearney Breast Center/Mammography

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