Breast Cancer Awareness – A Preventative Discussion with Bronson Specialists
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Jennifer Webb, radiation oncologist at Bronson Oncology & Hematology Specialists, offers the following advice to help women reduce the chances of developing the disease through education and early detection.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer forms when changes in DNA cause normal breast cells to become cancerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is one the most common types of cancer among women in the United States. In fact, about 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
Although this type of cancer is much more common in women, it is important for men to be aware of these risk factors as well.
What are some risk factors?
There are several factors that can affect your risk of developing breast cancer. By being familiar with these factors, you can help prevent and detect early signs of breast cancer.
- Family history – Did your mom, grandmother or sister have breast cancer? Since breast cancer forms when DNA changes, family genes can affect your risk level.
- Diet – Maintaining a healthy diet is important. Diets high in fat and carbohydrates can lead to being overweight, which can increase your risk.
- Exercise habits – As with eating healthy, regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, decreasing your risk.
- Ethnicity – Breast cancer is typically more common in Caucasian and African American women. However, it is the most common cause of cancer deaths among Hispanic women.
How often should I be screened?
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), all women should receive regular breast cancer screenings starting at age 40.
An additional, and important, technique that allows individuals to regularly screen themselves is a breast self-examination. Both men and women should perform monthly self-exams once a month starting around age 18. This is one way to detect potential signs of breast cancer early.
What are signs of breast cancer?
Prevention and early detection are the best ways to fight breast cancer. Some things to look out for include:
- Swelling of the breast (all or part of it)
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
How can I reduce my risk?
Since breast cancer can develop from changes in DNA and other risk factors like family history, there is no way to fully prevent breast cancer. The good news, though, is that there are several lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk factors. According to the ACS, try to:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Limit alcohol
- ACS recommends that women who drink have no more than one alcoholic drink a day. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces liquor.
- Consider breastfeeding
- For women who give birth, breastfeeding has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer.
Make breast health a priority
Prevention and early detection are the best ways to fight breast cancer. Bronson offers mammography services across southwest Michigan, in Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Portage, Paw Paw and South Haven. To schedule your mammogram, call Bronson Central Scheduling at (269) 341-8700 or (888) 741-6415.
If you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, trust the experts at the Bronson for compassionate, comprehensive care. The Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center is accredited by the Commission on Cancer and have been recognized nationally for patient safety. Ask your primary care provider for a referral. Visit bronsonhealth.com/cancer to learn about cancer care services in southwest Michigan.