The power of pink is everywhere this October as we observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This yearly event is more than just a way to raise much needed funds for breast cancer research. It helps to increase awareness for the second leading cause of death by cancer in women. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that in 2019 about 41,760 women in the United States will die from breast cancer. As stark as the estimate is, breast cancer deaths have been going down.
The death rate from female breast cancer actually dropped 40% from 1989 to 2016. These decreases are credited to improved treatment, increased awareness and earlier detection through screening. African-American and white women get breast cancer at approximately the same rate, but African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer.
While there is no way to prevent breast cancer, there are ways most women can lower their risk for the disease. Those include:
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Staying physically active
• Limiting the use of alcohol
• Eating a healthy diet
• Using hormone therapy after menopause
• Avoiding the use of cigarettes
Since breast cancer often has no symptoms, regular breast cancer screenings are all the more important. Mammograms can help doctors detect cancer in the early stages, when treatment is most successful.
According to the ACS, women between the ages of 40 and 44 should choose to start annual mammograms if they choose. However, regular mammography is recommended every year for women aged 45-54 and then every two years starting at 55.
Breast cancer is often diagnosed early in women, so many doctors emphasize the importance of breast self-awareness. Some of the symptoms that women should look for include: lumps, changes in breast size and shape, swelling or redness, nipple discharge or pimples, or skin rashes (like orange peel). Women should report any breast changes to their healthcare provider immediately.