October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while we’re all wearing pink, we also need to review some potentially life-saving facts about this devastating disease. Over 325,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and over 42,000 women will die.
Let’s review the facts and then schedule your next mammogram.
You can still get breast cancer even if you don’t have a family history of the disease.
Many people believe that breast cancer is hereditary. While your family history does influence your risk of breast cancer, not having a family member who had breast cancer doesn’t mean that you won’t develop the disease.
Medical researchers don’t fully understand what causes abnormal cell growth in breast tissue. Mutations in certain genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) increase your chances of developing breast cancer, but we don’t understand all of the factors that lead to genetic mutations.
That said, currently, there is no evidence to support claims that wearing a bra, using a cell phone, or antiperspirant causes breast cancer.
Young women get breast cancer, too.
Another common misconception is that only middle-aged and older women get breast cancer. Yes, your risk of developing breast cancer does increase with age — most cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 50 — but that doesn’t mean that younger women can’t develop the disease, too.
All women should do at-home breast exams once a month. The best time to check your breasts at home each month is right after your period. The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends checking while you’re in the shower, in front of a mirror, and then while lying down.
Breast cancer doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms.
Breast cancer can develop without causing any noticeable changes to your breasts. You might not feel a lump or any texture or shape changes. This is why it’s so important to have professional breast exams at your annual well-woman appointment and mammograms.
Mammograms can save your life.
It would be best if you started having annual mammograms by the age of 45, although we recommend that women begin having mammograms around 40. Depending on your risk, you might be able to have biannual mammograms from the age of 55.
Mammograms only take around 20 minutes. They’re not the most comfortable experience you’ll ever have, but they’re not painful. And— the benefits of early diagnosis far outweigh a couple of minutes of discomfort.
While mammograms aren’t fool-proof, they are a valuable diagnostic tool for catching cancer in its early stages. Breast cancer is easier to treat, and you have better expected outcomes when you start treatment early.
Unusual results don’t necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. Around 10% of women end up having additional testing after a mammogram, including blood tests, biopsies, and additional mammograms.
Even early-stage breast cancer can recur.
Having breast cancer once, even if you catch and treat it in the early stages of the disease, increases your risk of developing the disease again. Unfortunately, breast cancer isn’t a one-and-done type of disease.
If you’ve had breast cancer before, your provider can give you personalized advice on how often to have screenings. Make sure to have your regular check-ups and screenings.
Pay attention to your body and how you’re feeling, and if you have any concerns about your health, make an appointment with your trusted health care provider.
Here at Maiden Lane Medical, we’re committed to protecting and improving women’s health. If you need a well-woman exam, mammogram, or another service, call or make an appointment online today.