October is breast cancer awareness month. Women AND men, please check yourself for any unusual lumps or changes in your breast. You should do this regularly. But please do yourself a favor and commit to at least once a month. If you don’t know what YOUR normal is, you won’t know what your abnormal is. Get comfortable and familiar with your breasts.
Also, talk to your doctor about getting screened for cancer markers, have them see if your insurance will cover it.
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded. They can even be painful. For this reason, it is important to have any new breast mass, lump, or breast change checked by a health care professional experienced in diagnosing breast diseases.
Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
- Skin irritation or dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt. Swollen lymph nodes should also be checked by a health care provider.
Although any of these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, if you have them, they should be reported to a health care professional so that the cause can be found.
Because mammograms do not find every breast cancer, it is important for you to be aware of changes in your breasts and to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. Currently, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 12%. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer. This also means there is a 7 in 8 chance she will never have the disease.
In recent years, incidence rates have been the same in white and African American women. Breast cancer is more common in these women, compared to women of other races/ethnicities.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women (only lung cancer kills more women each year). The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 37 (about 2.7%).
Death rates from female breast cancer dropped 39% from 1989 to 2015. Since 2007, breast cancer death rates have been steady in women younger than 50, but have continued to decrease in older women.
These decreases are believed to be the result of finding breast cancer earlier through screening and increased awareness, as well as better treatments.
At this time there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. This includes women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.
Whether you or a loved one are worried about developing breast cancer, have just been diagnosed, are going through breast cancer treatment, or are trying to stay well after treatment, this detailed information can help you find the answers you need. Learn more about breast cancer here.