Blog 10/11/2017

Weekly Clinical Service Dose: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

6 Essential Facts About Breast Cancer

As scary as breast cancer is, learning about the disease can be empowering. Chances are you have a friend or family member who’s faced breast cancer. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with the disease at some point during their lives, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Read on to find out what you should know about Breast Cancer:

1.Experts differ on when to start getting regular mammograms.

While the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women ages 50 to 74 get mammograms every two years, the ACS suggests that women begin getting annual mammograms at age 45. And some experts believe 40 is the right age to start getting mammograms. Talk to your doctor about when you should start getting mammograms and how often you should get them.

2.Your breast size doesn’t matter.

The size of your breasts has no bearing on your risk for developing breast cancer. The same is true for detecting cancer with a mammogram. As long as the technologist can get the tissue within the plates to compress it and get the image done — which they can almost always do — there shouldn’t be a problem. Whether or not you or a physician can feel a cancer depends on how close to the surface the cancer is, how different the texture of the cancer is from your breast tissue, and where the cancer is in the breast.

3.Breast cancer usually shows no signs or symptoms.

The point of mammograms is to detect cancer before symptoms occur, but sometimes cancer is missed on a mammogram.

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump or mass. But according to the ACS, other symptoms can include swelling; skin irritation; pain in the nipple or breast; an inward turning nipple; redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin; and nipple discharge that isn’t breast milk.

Awareness of your breasts is important. If you find something that’s new or different, whether you discover it in the shower or looking in the mirror or another way, bring it to your doctor’s attention.

4.Most women who get breast cancer don’t have a family history.

More than 85 percent of women who get breast cancer have no family history of the disease, reports the ACS.

While family history does increase your risk, not having breast cancer in your family does not by any means get you off the hook. Even if you have no family history, your risk of getting breast cancer over your lifetime is 12 percent.

This is very high for a cancer. I see many women who find a lump and don’t think they need to worry, because no one in their family has had breast cancer.

5.Genetic testingis appropriate for some women, but not all.

If you know that a close relative, such as your mother or sister, carries a breast cancer gene mutation (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2), talk with your doctor about genetic testing. If you don’t know whether a family member who had breast cancer was tested for a gene mutation, your doctor can determine if you’d be a good candidate for genetic testing.

Some other factors that may be markers of a higher risk, and that may merit getting a genetic evaluation, include:

  • Having numerous relatives who have had breast cancer
  • Having relatives who have had breast cancer at a younger age, before menopause
  • Having relatives who have had cancer in both breasts
  • Having male relatives who have had breast cancer
  • Having relatives with both breast and ovarian cancer

6.There are some things you can do to reduce your risk.

There is no proven way to prevent breast cancer, living a healthy lifestyle is your best defense.

You can’t beat your DNA or your family history, so whatever you’re predisposed to, you are predisposed to. But there are things you can potentially control and maximize to your benefit.

Following a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants and cancer-fighting nutrients, as well as exercising, minimizing alcohol (more than one drink a day on average increases a woman’s risk), and maintaining a healthy weight can all be beneficial. There’s no magic bullet, or pill, or one specific thing, but these are some factors you can control.

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