October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone is asked to show their support in any way they can and also share information on this disease. Almost everyone has been affected by breast cancer. Breast cancer is cancer that forms in tissues of the breast, usually the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk). It occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), an estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among women in the United States last year. Approximately 1,910 new cases are expected in men. The ACS also reports that an estimated 40,610 breast cancer deaths are expected in 2009 (40,170 women, 440 men). Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, aside from skin cancer.
One of the earliest signs of breast cancer can be an abnormality that shows up on a mammogram before it can be felt. The most common signs of breast cancer are a lump in the breast; abnormal thickening of the breast; or a change in the shape or color of the breast. Finding a lump or change in your breast does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Additional changes that may also be signs of breast cancer include:
Any new, hard lump or thickening in any part of the breast
Change in breast size or shape
Dimpling or puckering of the skin
Swelling, redness or warmth that does not go away
Pain in one spot that does not vary with your monthly cycle
Pulling in of the nipple
Nipple discharge that starts suddenly and appears only in one breast
An itchy, sore or scaling area on one nipple
Mammography screening remains the best available method to detect breast cancer early. However, no medical test is always 100 percent accurate, and mammography is no exception. Research is under way to improve the technology to lead to better accuracy and to create new technologies.
In 1992, the U.S. Congress passed the Mammography Quality Standards Act to ensure that mammography facilities throughout the country are of high quality and are reliable. To lawfully perform mammography, each facility must prominently display a certificate issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This certificate serves as evidence that the facility meets quality standards.
It is important for women to practice the elements of good breast health. It is suggested women:
Obtain regular mammography screening starting at the age of 40