October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Chloe Nguyen, Staff Writer

The Wayne County Hospital and Clinic System supports October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). A collaboration of national public service organizations, professional medical associations, and government agencies are working together to promote breast cancer awareness, to share information on the disease, and provide greater access to services.

“Breast cancer awareness is just the knowledge about breast cancer, that it exists…and can be treated if caught early, but it also causes a lot of deaths,” Wayne State College’s nurse Kathy Bird said.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. The disease can occur in both men and women, but it’s far more common in women. Breast cancer survival rates have increased, and the number of deaths associated with this disease is steadily declining, largely due to factors such as earlier detection, a new personalized approach to treatment and a better understanding of the disease.

Researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that may increase the risk of breast cancer. It’s likely that breast cancer is caused by a complex interaction of the genetic makeup combined with the environment.

Women should do a breast exam monthly and get mammograms starting at 50-years-old on a yearly basis to detect for breast cancer.

Commons signs and symptoms of breast cancer include change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast. Individuals may feel lumps or thickening surrounding tissues inside their breasts. Other possible signs and symptoms may include changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling, peeling, scaling, crusting, redness or flaking of the pigmentation around the nipples.

It important for individuals to make an appointment with their doctor for prompt evaluation, even if a recent mammogram was normal but they suspect lumps or other changes in their breasts.

“You can also use Brack analysis, a blood test indication you may have a tendency toward breast cancer,” Bird said.

Factors that may increase risk of breast cancer include being female, increasing age, personal history of breast conditions, family history of breast cancer, inherited genes that increase cancer risk, radiation exposure and obesity. Individuals beginning their period at a younger age or beginning menopause at an older age, having never been pregnant, may also experience increased risk of breast cancer.

Individuals can help reduce their risk of breast cancer by asking their doctor about breast cancer screenings, becoming familiar with self-examination, drinking alcohol in moderation or ditching the alcohol, exercising most days of the week, limiting postmenopausal hormone therapy and maintaining a healthy weight with a balanced diet.

Doctors know that breast cancer occurs when cells begin to grow abnormally and divide more rapidly than healthy cells do. Bad cells will continue to accumulate, forming a lump, and may spread though the breast or metastasize to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.

“It kind of varies according to the stages of cancer, it can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, oral medication…to treat breast cancer. Sometimes, there is no treating at all if it is too late,” Bird said.

Women with a very high risk of breast cancer may choose to have their healthy breasts surgically removed or their healthy ovaries removed to reduce the risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Information in this article was taken from the Wayne County Hospital, WSC nurse Kathy Bird and mayoclinic.org.