October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”

Cancer that starts in the breast is called breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in American women, after skin cancer.

Every woman should do a monthly breast self-exam.  Follow this link to instructions on how to do an exam:  http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam.  Women should also have an annual clinical breast exam by a doctor or nurse.

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram.

If you have a low income or do not have insurance and you are between the ages of 40 and 64, you may qualify for a free or low-cost clinical breast exam and mammogram through the DeKalb County Board of Health’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.  For information, please visit https://dekalbhealth.net/hs/womens-health or call 404-294-3700.

The risk factors for breast cancer are:

  • Having your first menstrual period before age 12.
  • Never giving birth or being older when your first child is born.
  • Starting menopause after age 55.
  • Taking hormones for more than five years to replace missing estrogen and progesterone.
  • Taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills).
  • Having a personal history of breast cancer, dense breasts or some other breast problem.
  • Having a family history of breast cancer (a parent, sibling or child).
  • Getting radiation therapy to the breast or chest.
  • Being overweight, especially after menopause.
  • Experiencing changes in breast cancer-related genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2).

The signs and symptoms of breast cancer are:

  • A new lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • A thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
  • Pain in the breast.

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, call your doctor right away.  Or, call the DeKalb County Board of Health to see if you’re eligible for free or low-cost breast cancer services.

 (Source:  http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/pdf/BreastCancerFactSheet.pdf)

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