October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This time of year we focus on raising awareness and support for breast cancer, which affects 1 in 8 women. All women are at risk for developing breast cancer and can reduce their risk of dying from the disease by taking advantage of early detection strategies including breast examination and screening mammography. Use the following timeline to help protect yourself.
During your 20’s:
It is suggested that women in their 20’s begin performing monthly self breast exams. These exams take approximately 15 minutes a month and will help you become familiar with your breasts and how they normally look and feel. If you have questions on how to conduct a monthly self exam or if you discover a change, contact your physician.
During your 20’s and 30’s:
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Throughout a woman’s 20’s and 30’s, clinical breast exams should be conducted every three years in addition to monthly self exams.
Age 40 and Older:
Most women should begin receiving yearly screening mammograms at age 40. Early detection of breast cancer with mammograms has been proven to reduce the risk of dying from the disease. Clinical breast exams should be conducted yearly and women should continue to perform monthly self breast exams.
The American Cancer Society recommends additional screening with breast MRI for women who have an especially high risk, including those with a strong family history of breast cancer. Certain criteria must be met to qualify for this adjunctive screening. Women who believe they may have a higher than average risk, should speak with a healthcare professional. An online breast cancer risk assessment tool may also be helpful in estimating one’s risk: http://www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool .
Early detection is a key element in treating breast cancer. This October, take time for breast cancer screenings and help share this important message with other women.