Health and Mind: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

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By Jennifer Burchett

Clark County Health Department

Most people are now familiar with the pink ribbons associated with breast cancer awareness and can be seen most prevalent in October during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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The Susan G. Komen campaign has successfully brought awareness to breast cancer, which affects one in eight women throughout their lifespan in the United States a year. Breast cancer, like most other cancers, occurs when cells divide and grow out of control. Most breast cancers grow slowly so that by the time a lump is felt, the cancer may have been there for as long as ten years. Breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes under the arm, or if the tumor metastasizes, it can spread to the bones, lungs, liver, or brain. Early detection of breast cancers is critical to preventing the spread of the disease and can often be easily treated if caught early.

Warning signs of breast cancer

• New lump in breast or under the arm.

• Thickening or swelling in the breast.

• Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

• Redness or flaky skin in nipple area or other areas of the breast.

• Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple.

• Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.

• Change in the size or shape of the breast.

• Keep in mind that other non-cancerous conditions may cause lumps or breast changes. If you experience any warning signs, please be evaluated by your medical provider.

Risk factors for breast cancer that can’t be changed

• Getting older.

• Genetic mutations or inherited genes.

• Early menstruation (<12 years of age), late menopause (>55 years of age).

• Dense breasts.

• Having had a previous breast cancer.

• Other family members with breast cancer.

• Having received radiation therapy to breast area.

• Having taken the drug DES.

• Risk factors for breast cancer that can be changed

• Being physically inactive.

• Being overweight or obese after menopause.

• Taking hormone replacement therapy or some birth control pills..

• First pregnancy after 30 years of age, not breastfeeding, and never being pregnant.

• Drinking alcohol.

Ways to decrease risk of breast cancer

• Keep a healthy weight.

• Exercise regularly.

• Don’t drink alcohol, but if you do, limit to one drink per day.

• Ask your MD about hormones before starting .

• Breastfeed.

• For individuals with a strong family history for breast cancer, genetic testing.

Please get in touch with us at Clark County Health Department to access the Kentucky Women’s Cancer Screening Program (KWCSP) if you need assistance with scheduling and paying for your mammogram. If cancer is detected and you have been screened through the KWCSP, the Kentucky Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program may assist with referrals and paying for treatment. Call us at (859) 744-4482.