October is widely recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month; however, Ochsner Cancer Center Baton Rouge is putting a spin on that theme. “We are calling October Breast Self-Awareness Month,” said Dr. Burke “Jay” Brooks, chairman of Ochsner’s Baton Rouge hematology/oncology department. “The earlier breast cancer can be diagnosed, the more likely we’ll have a successful outcome.”
Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the U.S. Many experts say self-awareness is a key factor in early detection. This self-awareness can come in many forms.
- Know your risk factors - Since you can’t stop the two biggest risks, being a woman and aging, it’s vital to focus on the third biggest risk: Family.Learning your family history is important and will give doctors vital information in forming a proactive screening plan.
- Administer breast self-exams - Self-exams are important to identify any breast changes, such as: Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area; Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast; Change in the size or shape of the breast; Dimpling or puckering of the skin; Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple; Pulling-in of your nipple or other parts of the breast; Nipple discharge that starts suddenly; New pain in one spot that doesn't go away.
- Get screened - Have a clinical breast exam at least every three years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40. Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk.Speak with your doctor about which screenings are right for you if you are at high risk.
- Be well - Continuing a healthy lifestyle is important to deter many diseases, including breast cancer.Maintain a healthy weight, add exercise into your routine, limit alcohol intake and limit menopausal hormone use.
“Being self-aware of risk factors, exams, screenings and wellness can go a long way in prevention and early detection,” added Dr. Brooks. “Screening mammograms are covered under all major insurances, Medicare and Medicaid. If you are of age for a mammogram, there really is no excuse not to get one annually.”
This year, according to American Cancer Society statistics, it's estimated in the U.S. that there will be:
- New cases of invasive breast cancer - 266,120 women and 2,550 men
- Breast cancer deaths - 40,920 women and 480 men
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an Ochsner practitioner, call 225-761-5200 or visit www.Ochsner.org/info to schedule online.