10 Things Every Woman Should Know About Breast Cancer (Breast Cancer Month)

Because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a time to increase your awareness about breast cancer and remember to do your breast self-exam. Dr. Maria Palafox and her health care team at South Texas Breast Surgery share 10 important facts about this disease.

1. Breast cancer is quite common

After skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting American women. On average, the risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer at some point in her life is approximately 12%. Your risk of breast cancer doubles if your sister, mother, or daughter had breast cancer.

2. Death rates from breast cancer are falling

Although breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer), death rates from female breast cancer decreased about 39% between 1989 and 2015. Although breast cancer death rates have held steady in women under age 50 over the past decade or so, they have fallen in older women.

Decreases in cancer deaths are believed to be the result of improved screening, increased awareness, and better treatments.

3. If you have survived breast cancer, you have lots of company

Today there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States. The chance of dying from breast cancer is only about 2.6%.

4. Alcohol appears to raise breast cancer risk.

Studies show links between alcohol and breast cancer. The more you drink, the higher your risk. For example, compared with teetotalers, women who have two or three drinks per day have about a 20% higher risk of breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends that if you drink, limit yourself to no more than one drink per day.

5. Exercise may protect you from breast cancer

A growing body of research shows a link between regular physical activity and a lower risk of breast cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week. Maintaining a healthy weight also seems to have a positive impact on breast cancer risk.

6. Early detection saves lives

The earlier breast cancer is caught, the more treatable and survivable it is. For example, very early breast cancer (stage 0 and stage I) has a five-year relative survival rate of nearly 100%.

7. Men get breast cancer, too

It’s rare, but it happens. Up to 1% of breast cancers occur in men, particularly men between the ages of 60 and 70.

8. Every woman should know the warning signs of breast cancer

By knowing the warning signs of breast cancer, you could save your life. Call for an appointment if you notice any of the following:

Knowing these signs doesn’t take the place of screening tests like mammograms or regular checkups.

9. Researchers are making progress against breast cancer

Scientists around the world are hard at work finding better ways to prevent, detect, and treat breast cancer. New lab and imaging tests make it possible to detect cancer earlier, when the rate of survival is higher.

10. You are not alone

There are numerous support groups for women fighting breast cancer. By participating in such groups, you can relieve your anxiety and stress — and be better able to face your diagnosis and treatment — thereby increasing your chances of survival.

If you are concerned about your risk of breast cancer or if you notice a suspicious sign or symptom, call Dr. Palafox for an appointment. She and her warm, compassionate, experienced team of women’s health experts are here for you.

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