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Focus on Breast Cancer Awareness

Time to think PINK.

Pink shirts. Pink bracelets. Even pink hair. Every year during this month, there’s always an outpouring of support for the fight to end breast cancer. And while the month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to raise awareness year-round.

Most females who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease. Some females who develop breast cancer have no apparent risk factors other than being a female and growing older. Even when a woman with one or more risk factors develops breast cancer, it is difficult to know how much these factors might have contributed to the development of the disease. [1]

The following are lifestyle risk factors, which a woman can modify to reduce her risk of getting breast cancer:

  • Alcohol use (two to five drinks daily)
  • Obesity or overweight status, especially after menopause
  • Reproductive history (breast cancer risk increases among females who have never had children or who had their first child after age 30)
  • High-fat diet, low intake of fruits and vegetables
  • Smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke.

There are also nonmodifiable risk factors (these cannot be changed). Some of these risk factors are listed below:

  • Gender
  • Increasing age – Only one out of eight invasive breast cancers is diagnosed in females under 45; two-thirds of invasive breast cancers are in females 55 and older.
  • Family history – Having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer doubles a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer; having two first-degree relatives triples the risk.
  • Gene defects or mutations – Five to 10 percent of breast cancer cases may result from gene defects or mutations inherited from a parent. The most common inherited mutation is the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, found mostly in Jewish females of eastern European origin.
  • Dense breast tissue is thought to increase risk because it makes it more difficult to detect potential problems on mammograms.

To protect against breast cancer, individuals should maintain a healthy weight; consume a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; limit calcium intake; and engage in regular physical activity.

Get screened. It’s no secret that screenings save lives.  A mammogram can detect breast cancer early, at a more treatable stage.   Become familiar with when and how often you should be screened. And encourage others to do the same.

Women 40 and older should have a mammogram annually. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel, and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Females with an increased risk for breast cancer should discuss with their health care provider the benefits and limitations of beginning mammograms when they are younger, having additional tests, and/or having more frequent exams. 

Schedule a screening today. Talk to your health care provider. Whether or not you have insurance, a nurse navigator can schedule a cancer screening for you. If you’re uninsured or underinsured, Delaware’s Screening for Life program makes it possible to get the screenings you need, when you need them. Find out if you’re eligible for a FREE screening.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you’re already dealing with so much. Our team of Cancer Care Coordinators can help you and your family with resources and information related to your cancer diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. If you’re uninsured, the Delaware Cancer Treatment Program can help pay for the treatment(s) that you need.

[1] Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Delaware, 2009 – 2013.