October may be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but your chance of surviving breast cancer depends upon your awareness of this disease all year long.
Breast cancer claims the lives of approximately 39,520 women each year, according to figures released by the American Cancer Society. Further, breast cancer is the number 1 cancer for women, second only to non-melanoma skin cancer.
But the good news is that this type of cancer is survivable, as long as you catch the cancer early enough in its development. As millions of breast cancer survivors can attest, breast cancer awareness can, indeed, save your life.
The first step in surviving breast cancer is to know your risk factors.
Breast Cancer Awareness of Risk Factors
There are many risk factors that make it more likely that you may develop breast cancer. However, it’s important to understand that having one or more of the following risk factors does not guarantee that you will develop this disease. In fact, the Mayo Clinic says that, for many women who develop this disease, their only risk factor is being a woman.
That said, true breast cancer awareness means that you should be well-versed in the following risk factors:
Being a Woman. Although men can get breast cancer, women are far more likely to develop this disease.
Age. Like most cancers, breast cancer risk increases with age. For instance, a woman aged 20 is far less likely to develop this disease than a woman who is aged 50 and older.
Family History. If you have a first degree relative-mother, sister, or daughter-you have a greater chance of developing this disease. However, most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of this disease.
Personal History. If you have ever had cancer in one breast, your chance of developing cancer in your other breast is much greater.
Inherited Genes. Those up on breast cancer awareness have jumped on the relatively recent finding that there are certain gene mutations, such as BRCA1and BRCA2, that can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. But this risk factor, too, does not guarantee breast cancer (thank God).
Obesity. Experts believe that obesity may increase the risk of breast cancer because fatty tissue is an estrogen-producer, a hormone known to promote certain cancers.
Drinking Alcohol. Because drinking alcohol has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer, doctors recommend that women should drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day.
Age of Certain Hormonal Events. The following hormonal events have been proven to increase the risk of breast cancer:
* Having your first period before the age of 12.
* Starting menopause after age 55.
* Having your first child after the age of 35
Hormone Therapy Women who are treated by hormone replacement therapy-medications that combine estrogen and progesterone-to treat the symptoms of menopause are at a greater risk for breast cancer.
If you have any of the above risk factors, please see your doctor for the appropriate breast cancer screening options. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a great time to make an appointment with your doctor to go over your options. Your life is too important to put this appointment off!