October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness and prevention of the disease.
Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 10% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age. Most women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors and no history of the disease in their families.
Vigilance is key for breast cancer detection.
“Women should begin doing self-evaluations following puberty,” said R. Francine Reeves, community health nurse with Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune (NMCCL). “In addition to doing self-evaluations, Mammograms are also recommended beginning around age 40. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms.”
If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes, consult your doctor.
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.
“Finding breast cancer early is the key to beating breast cancer,” said Reeves. “Women know their own bodies best, so they are frequently are the first person to notice a small suspicious lump in their breast.”
Breast cancer prevention starts with healthy habits. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk. Limit your alcohol consumption. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. The general recommendation is to limit yourself to less than one drink a day. Evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which helps prevent breast cancer. Most healthy adults should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week. Breast-feeding might play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.
As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, NMCCL is sponsoring a “Walk –in” Mammogram Clinic from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. & 1 p.m. 3 p.m. in the Radiology Department on the 2nd Floor, Oct. 21 – 24. For more information regarding the Walk-in Mammogram Clinic, call (910) 450-4357.