October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Maj. John McLennan
  • 42nd Medical Group healthcare integrator
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Every year, 200,000 new cases of breast cancer are reported nationwide and more than 40,000 women die from the disease. Getting mammograms regularly can help with early detection and treatment of breast cancer. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 7 million women have not had a recent mammogram to screen for breast cancer as recommended. Mammograms can find breast cancer early, before it is large enough to feel or cause physical symptoms.

The CDC recommends that all women ages 50 to 74 have a mammogram every two years, and those between ages 40 and 49 should discuss with their doctor when to start screening.  The risk of cancer does increase with age. 

If you think you may be at increased risk, ask your doctor if you should be tested earlier or more frequently than these recommendations.  Some identified risk factors for breast cancer are  long-term use of hormone replacement therapy, personal history of breast cancer or non-cancerous breast disease, family history of breast cancer, treatment with radiation therapy to the breast or chest, exposure to diethylstilbestrol, or DES, dense breasts by mammogram and drinking alcohol.

Some women will develop breast cancer even without any known risk factors.  If you have breast cancer risk factors, talk with your healthcare provider about ways you can lower your risk and about screening for breast cancer.