Mind and Body: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Jennifer Burchett,RN

Clark County Health Department

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

The Susan G. Komen campaign has been very successful in bringing awareness to breast cancer that affects roughly 124 of every 100,000 women 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 by the time a lump may actually be felt, the cancer may have been there for as long as 10 years.

Breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes under the arm, or if the tumor metastasizes, can spread to the bones, lungs, liver or brain.

Early detection of breast cancers is key to preventing the spread of the disease, which can often be easily treated if caught early.

Here are some of the 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 of these warning signs, please be evaluated by your medical provider.

There are multiple risk factors for breast cancer that can’t be changed:

— Getting older

— Genetic mutations or inherited genes

— Early menstruation (younger than 12), late menopause (older than 55)

— 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

However, there are risk factors 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

And, there are ways to decrease your 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 doctor about hormones before starting

— Breastfeed

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

Contact the Clark County Health Department at 744-4482 in regards to 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 be able to provide assistance with referrals and paying for treatment.