Recently, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus announced on Twitter that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, saying: “1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one.”
She continued: “The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union.”
Sadly, almost all of us have been touched by breast cancer in some way, whether it’s our own diagnosis or that of a friend or family member. With the exception of skin cancer, breast cancer remains the most common cancer for women in the U.S., with more than 250,000 new cases each year.
But there’s good news: more women than ever are beating the disease. Thanks to ever-improving treatments and increased attention from Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, mortality rates are down. And high-profile cases like Louis-Dreyfus’s can help remind women everywhere to stay vigilant with breast self-exams, screenings and other early detection methods.
Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself against breast cancer:
It is recommended that all women give themselves regular breast self-exams to detect lumps and other breast changes.
Not all women have the same symptoms of breast cancer, but symptoms to look for include:
- Changes in breast shape or size
- Lumps or thickening in the breast or underarm
- Breast pain
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
- Redness, soreness, rash or swelling
- Dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin
- Inverted nipple (pushed inward rather than sticking out)
It’s important to keep in mind that lumps and other breast changes are often benign, and a result of something other than cancer. Because symptoms can vary widely, you should contact your doctor with any questions or concerns.
Screening & Early Detection
Some women never have any symptoms at all – making routine screening especially important. Mammograms cannot prevent breast cancer, but they can help catch the disease in its earliest and most treatable stages.
It’s important for every woman to consult with her physician to develop a personalized breast cancer screening plan based on her individual risks, family history, lifestyle and other factors.
Identify Your Risk
A person’s chances of developing breast cancer come down to a combination of factors, including gender, age, family history and lifestyle choices, such as smoking and not getting enough exercise.
It may seem obvious, but the biggest risk factor when it comes to breast cancer is simply being a woman. Men account for just 1% of breast cancer patients. Women who are 50 and older represent the majority of new cases, while women under 45 years old make up around 10%.
Genetics can drive up risk, too. Some women with a family history of breast cancer will inherit mutations in their genes (most commonly the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes) that predispose them to certain cancers.
Florida Hospital Cancer Institute’s High-Risk Breast Cancer Center helps women identify their genetic and environmental risks of developing breast cancer. With the expertise of our genetic counselor and breast health specialists, high-risk patients are put on specific evaluation regiments that include regular screenings and follow-ups.
For more information about mammograms and breast cancer treatment options at Florida Hospital, visit PinkOut.com.