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Every month should be Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Adina H. Keller, MD FACOG, Gynecology, CareMount Medical
November 17, 2021

As a gynecologist, I care for women of all ages, starting from late teens through older adulthood. Each stage of a woman’s life brings new health concerns from menstruation through menopause, birth control and pregnancy, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Breast health and breast disease are concerns for women at every stage of their lives. During their mid-40s, pre and post-menopausal women, especially those with a family history or other risk factors are more likely to be concerned about breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the U.S.  Each year about 255,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women. Although deaths from breast cancer have markedly declined over time due to  early detection using mammograms  and the advances in cancer treatment, breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death among women overall. In addition, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women, and black women die from breast cancer at a higher rate than white women.

The month of October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a health observance that reminds us to get our exams and our mammograms, to be aware of the symptoms and risk factors for breast cancer, as well as steps we can take to improve our health and help lower the risk of getting breast cancer. But in reality, breast cancer awareness should be a year-round priority. Breast cancer can occur in women of all ages, although risk increases with age, and it can occur as well in men. The incidence of breast cancer is considerably lower in younger woman and in men, than in women 50 and older, but nevertheless, healthcare professionals are increasingly encouraging breast cancer awareness in adult women and men of all ages.

The key to awareness is asking basic questions. Below are among the most commonly asked questions about breast cancer. For women of all ages, speaking with your OB/GYN is a good place to start. And men should not be shy to discuss their risk of breast cancer during annual exams with their primary care physicians.

  • What should I do if I feel a breast lump? Does breast cancer have any symptoms?
  • What are some of the key risk factors for developing breast cancer?
  • What can I do to reduce my risk of breast cancer?
  • What age should I start getting breast exams and what age should I start having a mammogram? How often should I get screened? Am I a candidate for additional testing such as a breast ultrasound or MRI?
  • Should I delay cancer screening because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A final, but important note about COVID-19. The CDC says, “Cancer doesn’t wait and neither should you.” Screenings can detect cancer early when treatment can be most effective. Unfortunately, due to a combination of fear of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, more people have put off regular check-ups, preventive care and cancer screenings, including breast cancer screenings.

Most clinics and providers are offering breast cancer screenings again and have precautions in place to make sure screenings are done as safely as possible. If you have concerns, reach out to your health care team to ask about safety measures they’ve taken for your protection, and review the risks and benefits to determine the best and safest strategy for you.

Please do not delay cancer screening when it can save your life! Just being a woman getting older are the two biggest risks for developing breast cancer, so be proactive and get screened!

Basic Information about Breast Cancer | CDC

2 Breast Cancer Statistics | CDC

3 Impact of COVID-19 on Breast Cancer Screenings

4 Cancer Screening During the COVID-19 Pandemic | Cancer Tests and Coronavirus