Health beat: Breast cancer awareness

Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Stock photo (A nurse positions a patient for a mammogram. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early.)

The best way to find breast cancer early is with a mammogram. Women over 50 should have a screening mammogram every two years.

Symptoms

When breast cancer starts out, it is too small to feel and does not cause signs and symptoms. As it grows, however, breast cancer can cause changes in how the breast looks or feels. Symptoms may include:

* New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).

* Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.

* Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

* Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.

* Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

* Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.

* Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.

* Pain in any area of the breast.

Mammograms

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. If you are age 50 to 74 years, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are 40 to 49, talk to your doctor about when and how often you should have a screening mammogram.

Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. When their breast cancer is found early, many women go on to live long and healthy lives.

Lowering the risk

* Control your weight and exercise.

* Know your family history of breast cancer. If you have a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer, ask your doctor what is your risk of getting breast cancer and how you can lower your risk.

* Find out the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy.

* Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

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