October is breast cancer awareness month

Written by: Josephine Tate

MSU Extension Service –


All women are at risk for breast cancer, even those who don’t have a family history of the disease. That’s why it’s important to remind the women you know of the facts about breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, except for non-melanoma skin cancers. In fact, one of every eight women will develop the disease. While we are learning more and more about breast cancer, a woman’s best defense is finding the cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage.  In its early stages, breast cancer usually has no symptoms. The first sign of breast cancer in women often is a lump in the breast or underarm that persists after their menstrual cycle.  Lumps are usually visible on a mammogram long before they can be seen or felt.  Although some may cause a prickly sensation, lumps associated with breast cancer are usually painless.

Breast cancer stages range from early, curable breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer, with a variety of breast cancer treatments.

Today, the best method of early detection is a three-pronged approach: annual mammograms for women starting at age 40; clinical breast exams by a health care professional annually for women age 40 or older and every three years for women in their 20s and 30s; breast self-examinations optional for women starting in their 20s.  Mammograms are extremely important for women 40 and older because they can detect abnormalities in the breast several years before women or their doctor can feel a lump.

The vast majority of breast cancer patients are women.  Nevertheless, male breast cancer must be taken seriously.  Every year about 1,700 U.S. men get breast cancer.  It was estimated that 2,190 cases of breast cancer would be diagnosed in men in 2012.  Breast cancer in men is uncommon, possibly due to the smaller amount of breast tissue and the fact that men produce less hormones such as estrogen that are known to affect breast cancers in women.  In fact, only about 1 in 100 breast cancers affect men and only about 10 men in a million will develop breast cancer.

If breast cancer has touched your life, you are not alone. The American Cancer Society offers a wide range of information to help patients and their families make decisions about their treatment.

If you or someone you know has been touched by breast cancer, or if you’d like to join the fight, contact your American Cancer Society 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.