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October is here and the color Pink is everywhere, reminding us that

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Major companies like the NFL, MLB, Nike, Ford and many others will be participating by wearing and selling pink in this annual nationwide campaign to increase awareness of breast cancer. Although most people are already aware of the existence of breast cancer, many are not aware of the actual occurrence.

1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime

Being reminded of breast cancer once a year in October is not enough to improve survival rates. We know that the key to surviving a breast cancer diagnosis is in early detection.

When breast cancer is detected early, the 5-year survival rate is 98%

Early detection happens when women develop and engage in an Early Detection Plan, year round. This plan should include:

Know the symptoms and signs of breast cancer

Perform monthly breast self-exam

Obtain an annual clinical exam and mammogram

Signs and Symptoms

Most women who have breast cancer symptoms initially notice one or two of the following signs.

  • A change in how the breast or nipple feels
  • A change in the appearance of the breast or nipple
  • Any nipple discharge, particularly clear or bloody discharge

The presence of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that it’s breast cancer. Be sure to talk to your healthcare professional if you notice anything unusual.

Breast Self Exam and Clinical Breast Exams

breast self-exam is something every woman should do at once at month at home. By performing monthly self-breast exams, you will be able to more easily identify any changes in your breast. It is critical that you perform this test regularly. Regular self-breast exams not only help catch any unusual finding early, they help you develop greater familiarity with your breast and therefore know what does and does not feel ‘normal.’ Please review the instructional video below. And men, please share this with the women in your life – your wife/significant other, sisters, etc.

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http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam

Perhaps you need some assistance in remembering to perform that monthly self-exam or schedule that annual mammogram, if so check out these smart phone apps:

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 5.54.50 PMApple Apps

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Google Apps

A clinical breast exam is performed by a healthcare professional who is trained to recognize different breast abnormalities. This is an office exam that is most often performed by your primary care physician or gynecologist during your annual physical exam.

For more information about how and why a clinical exam is performed click here.

Mammograms

A mammogram may detect a breast lump or abnormality before it can even be felt. Cancer, fatty cells or other conditions like cysts, can be observed on mammography. These findings may necessitate further testing to determine if finding is benign or indicative of cancer; additional tests can include ultrasound, MRI or biopsy. Although having these tests may raise anxiety levels, it is critical to rule out cancer. Learning that it’s not cancer is a big relief, while if there is cancer present, early detection greatly improves survival rates and usually requires less invasive procedures.

If you are a woman over 40 you should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years. Women who are younger than 40 but have risk factors need to consult with their health care professional as to whether a mammogram is advisable and how often to have them.

Risk Factors

Simply being a woman with breasts is the main risk factor for breast cancer. Men can develop breast cancer but it is 100 times more common in women.

Your risk increases as you age. 1 in 8 breast cancers are found in women 45 and younger, while 2 in 3 are found in women 55 or older.

About 5 to 10% are thought to be hereditary, meaning the cancer is a direct result of a gene inherited from a parent.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer. Genetic testing can be performed to look for these genes and gain a greater understanding and awareness of your personal risk.

Knowing your family history from close blood relatives on both sides of your family is very important. Having one first-degree relative, such as a mother, sister or daughter, with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman’s risk to develop breast cancer, while having two first- degree relatives increases her risk three-fold.

A woman with cancer in one breast has a 3 to 4 fold increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.

Caucasian women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer.

There are also lifestyle –related factors in breast cancer risk. Women who have had no children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk. Women who consume one alcoholic drink per day have a very low risk, while those who have 2 to 5 drinks per day have about 1 ½ times the risk of women who do not drink at all. Being overweight or obese, especially after menopause increases breast cancer risk. There is more and more evidence that exercise reduces breast cancer risk.

Think Pink, year round. Implement your personal Early Detection Plan today!

For more information, please check out

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-Dr Denise Jablonski-Kaye