October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each year approximately 200,000 women and 1,700 men will be diagnosed with this disease. Women in the US get breast cancer more then any other type of cancer other then skin cancer.
By day I’m an ultrasound technologist. In recent months, I’ve had the opportunity to start learning breast ultrasound. I’ve scanned may women who wind up having cysts or benign tumors in their breasts. However, on occasion I scan a woman who has a mass that demonstrates the characteristics of a cancerous mass. There’s nothing more heartbreaking then seeing the shock and fear on these women’s faces as they go through the ultrasound, biopsy, and ultimately get a definitive diagnosis. But even worse is seeing the distress of close family members. I recall one study I did, a woman was there with her significant other or at the least a very close friend. The patient was clearly in shock. Not crying, but silent and physically shaking. Her friend/partner that was there with her just barely kept it together. The two of them together really broke my heart. Where ever they are I wish them the best of luck and to come through this together, strong, and with a clean bill of health. Actually, I’d like no one to ever have to face this dreadful disease. However, until we find a cure I’d like to help promote prevention and early detection. Below are a list of risk factors and early detection methods courtesy of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
Know your Risk Factors.
They can include any of the following:
- Age: Half of all women diagnosed are over age 65.
- Weight: Being obese or overweight.
- Diet & Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity, a diet high in saturated fat, and alcoholic intake of more than two drinks per day.
- Menstrual & Reproductive History: Early menstruation or late menopause, having your first child at an older age or not having given birth, or taking birth control pills for more than ten years if you are under 35.
- Family & Personal History: A family history of breast cancer—particularly a mother, sister. or a personal history of breast cancer of benign (non-cancer) breast disease.
- Medical & Other Factors: Dense breast tissue (often identified by a mammogram), past radiation therapy to the breast or chest area. A history of hormone treatments—such as estrogen and progesterone, or gene changes— including BRCA1, BRCA2, and others.
Survival of breast cancer can be increased by detecting it early.
Here is a suggested plan of action to aid in detecting breast cancer early.
- Beginning at age 20: Performing breast self-exams and looking for any signs of change.
- Age 20 to 39: Scheduling clinical breast exams every three years.
- By the age of 40: Having a baseline mammogram and annual clinical breast exams.
- Ages 40 to 49: Having a mammogram every one to two years depending on previous findings.
- Ages 50 and older: Having a mammogram every year.
- All Ages:
— Recording personal exams, mammograms and doctors’ appointments on a calendar or in a detailed file.
— Maintaining a healthy weight, following a low-fat diet getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol consumption.
Check yourself regularly and stay healthy.