PHOTO CAPTION: Breast cancer is the second-most common type of cancer in American women. However, regular mammograms can help catch signs of trouble early.
October 22, 2013
By MAJ Jessica Counts, Family Nurse Practitioner
Europe Regional Medical Command
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the breast, it is called breast cancer. Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women.
Breast cancer screening is checking breasts for cancer before any symptoms show. A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms.
Women between 50-74 years old should have a mammogram every two years. Women between 40-49 years old, or those who think they may have a higher risk of breast cancer, should ask their doctor when to begin breast cancer screening.
What may increase your risk
Those with the following risk factors may be more likely to get breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about ways to lower your risk and about screening.
Reproductive risk factors:
• Being younger than 12 years old when you had your first menstrual period.
• Never giving birth, or being older than age 35 at the birth of your first child.
• Starting menopause at age 55 or later.
• Using hormone replacement therapy.
Other risk factors:
• Not breastfeeding.
• A personal history of breast cancer, dense breasts or some other problems.
• A family history of breast or ovarian cancer (parent, sibling or child).
• Changes in breast cancer-related genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2).
• Getting radiation therapy to the breast or chest.
• Being overweight, especially after menopause.
• Smoking or chewing tobacco.
• Drinking three or more alcoholic drinks per week.
• Eating a high-fat diet.
• Sedentary or inactive lifestyle.
** Some women can have breast cancer even when they don't have any of these risks.
What may lower your risk
• Get at least four hours of exercise each week.
• Keep a healthy weight, especially after menopause.
• Avoid alcohol or limit alcoholic drinks to one per week.
• Don't smoke or quit smoking.
• Eat foods high in fiber and antioxidants like berries, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and herbs.
Some warning signs of breast cancer are:
• A lump or pain in the breast.
• Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
• Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
• Redness or flaky skin on the breast.
• Pulling in of the tip of the breast, or pain in the tip of the breast area.
• Fluid other than breast milk from the tip of the breast, especially blood.
• A change in the size or the shape of the breast.
**Other conditions can also cause these symptoms.
If you have any concerns or signs that worry you, make an appointment right away to see your PCM either through Tricare Online, Army Secure Messaging (Relay Health), or by calling your clinic.