Photos by Lynne Deliman
Lisa Koritsky, Teresa Yakubik, Kathy Kulka and Barb Keller from Presston are all breast cancer survivors.
It’s that time of the year again; Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The term “breast cancer” is enough to strike fear in any woman or man (yes, men can get it, too.)
One of the more pervasive forms of cancer, it’s also one of the most common cancer diagnoses in women, according to breastcancer.org. The only cancer at a higher rate is skin cancer. However, an estimated 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women this year will be breast cancer.
Although this is a well-known disease, there are many facets to it that may surprise the general population.
For one, it is more prevalent amongst African-Americans under 45 and Jewish women. African-American women especially are at a higher risk of dying from this type of cancer overall.
Although the risk of developing it doubles if you have a first-degree relative who has had it, that only accounts for less than 15% of cases.
It usually occurs as a cumulation of things, including aging, life habits and various other factors. In 2017, the most common age group to develop breast cancer was people aged 70-74 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Young women can get it as well, although the rates are much lower.
Men also can develop the cancer, but the prevalence only accounts for about 1 out of 100 diagnoses. The risk factors for men are the same as women.
Symptoms can vary but the most widely known sign is a lump on the breast or under the armpit that was not previously there. If you discover a new lump on your breast, keep in mind there are several other conditions that can cause it. Cysts and fibrocystic (noncancerous) conditions can also cause lumps.
Other signs can include swelling or irritation, red or flaky skin, pain, discharge or changes in the size of the breast. Again, these symptoms can all be attributed to other conditions so it’s important not to jump to conclusions until you get a thorough examination by a doctor.
If you believe you are at a higher risk or if you just want to play it safe, you can get periodic breast cancer screenings. These can include a clinical breast exam, where a doctor checks for new lumps. Breast magnetic reasoning imaging and mammograms (x-ray of the breast) are other options; mammograms are considered the best way to catch early breast cancer.
The purpose of screening is to catch the disease in its early stages and lower the risk of serious complications, or death. It is recommended that women of average risk begin bi-annual screening at age 50.
As with any type of cancer, the best prevention is to follow a healthy lifestyle. Limiting your alcohol consumption and breastfeeding if you have children are both beneficial in prevention. If you have a known family history, talk to a doctor about other preventions.
There are more drastic methods, such as breast removal but it’s best to meet with a doctor and weigh all of your risks and options.
Help spread awareness during this month to further the cause and reduce the fatalities for this condition.
For more information, visit cdc.gov or breastcancer.org.