As many of you now know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. Breast cancer is the 5th leading cause of death among women over the age of 40. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. Men also get breast cancer, but it is not very common. Less than 1% of breast cancers occur in men.
More than 249,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer every year, and nearly 41,000 die from the disease.
Although screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. When breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100%. Early detection includes doing monthly breast self-exams, and scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms. Getting a mammogram regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that if you are 50 to 74 years old, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are 40 to 49 years old, talk to your doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram.
According to the American Cancer Society, there is significant importance of finding breast cancer early. By having regular screening tests for breast cancer will enable doctors to find it before it causes symptoms (like a lump that can be felt). Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease in people who don’t have any symptoms. Early detection means finding and diagnosing a disease earlier than might have happened if you’d waited for symptoms to start.
Breast cancers found during these exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. The size and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the outlook of a woman with this disease.
Many doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer help save thousands of lives every year, and that many more could be saved if all women and their health care providers took advantage of these tests. Following the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer improves the chances that breast cancer can be found early and treated successfully.