Over a lifetime, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer
Breast cancer is a leading cause of illness and the fifth leading cause of death for women. While many people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages. The Cancer Society estimates that there will be 226,870 new cases and 39,510 deaths from invasive breast cancer for women in the United States in 2012. While there are some risk factors that can contribute to breast cancer, such as genetics, many women with breast cancer have no risk factors except for being a woman and growing older.
Getting regular screening tests is the best way to lower your risk of dying from breast cancer. Screening tests can find breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable.
The best way to find breast cancer early is with a mammogram
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast, which doctors use to look for early signs of breast cancer. When breast cancer is found early, many women can live long and healthy lives. There are different guidelines for how often to have a screening mammography, so speak with your healthcare provider to determine what’s best for you.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends women age 50 to 74 years to have a screening mammogram every two years, and for women age 40–49 years to talk to your doctor about when and how often you should have a screening mammogram.
Where to go for a mammogram
Most women get screened for breast cancer at a clinic, hospital, or doctor's office. To schedule a mammography screening, call your healthcare provider. Most health insurance companies or healthcare coverage programs will pay for a mammography screening, although there may be a co-pay.
If you live in San Mateo County and do not have health coverage or cannot afford the co-pay, you may qualify for a free or low-cost mammography screening through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program "Every Woman Counts". Call 1 (800) 511-2300 or visit Every Woman Counts
Make a plan to lower your risk of breast cancer
There are things you can do to reduce some of the risk factors for breast cancer. You can:
Control your weight and exercise
Know your family history of breast cancer. If you have a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer, talk to your doctor about ways to lower your risk
Find out the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
It’s best for you to talk to your healthcare provider to decide on the best plan for you.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is also a time for us to honor those whose lives were lost to the disease and recognize the importance of prevention and early detection in the fight against breast cancer. Remember, with regular screenings, breast cancer can often be found early, when the chances of successful treatment are best.
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