Breast cancer strikes one in every eight American women, and more than one-third of women are diagnosed with some type of cancer, such as cervical or ovarian, during their lives. Early detection and good treatment are great tools for helping overcome cancer. Start your year off with awareness.
Screening and Diagnosis
Early detection is one of the best ways to improve your chances of beating cancer. Know your risk factors for cancer and follow doctor recommendations for getting screened for different types. Risk factors for breast cancer include obesity, being an older woman and drinking alcohol. You are at higher risk if you have had radiation treatment for another type of cancer. Cervical cancer is most likely if you have had many sexual partners or if you smoke.
Women over age twenty-one should have an annual pap test to check for abnormal cells in the cervix, and should get breast exams during their regular physical exams. Regular self-breast exams at home are also recommended. This method of checking for breast cancer does not necessarily lead to early detection, since a tumor may be relatively large before you or your doctor can feel a lump.
The American Cancer Society recommends an annual mammogram for healthy women age 40 and over. Mammograms, or breast x-rays, can detect abnormal and potential cancerous breast tissue before you feel symptoms. If you are at higher risk for breast cancer, you may need magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI scan uses an injected dye to look at breast tissue. Your doctor may remove abnormal tissue for a biopsy to confirm whether or not it's cancerous.
Explore your options before deciding on a treatment path. A lumpectomy, or surgery to remove the lump, can be effective for a small tumor. Surgery to remove the entire affected organ may work for slightly more advanced, but still localized, tumors. For example, a mastectomy to remove the breast can treat breast cancer, and a hysterectomy to remove the uterus can treat cervical cancer if the cancer has not spread. Chemotherapy with drugs to kill cancer cells, radiation therapy with x-rays or proton beams to target cancer cells and hormone therapy are other approaches for breast cancer treatment.
Cancer can strike people who appear healthy and take good care of themselves. You may not be able to prevent cancer, but you can do your part to overcome it by getting recommended screenings and carefully weighing treatment options. You can also fight cancer risks for others by spreading awareness about the importance of regular screenings for early diagnosis and more effective treatment.
February is National Cancer Prevention Month. Think about what you can do to protect yourself and the women in your life from cancer.