Be proactive in detecting lumps

Look around you. We see the evidence of “awareness” all around. The pink ribbon symbols that represent breast cancer began in 1991 at the New York Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure. Since that time the blossoming of the “ribbon” symbol has been evidence. According to DisabilityWorld.com, there are over 70 colors of ribbon symbols representing hundreds of awareness ideas. New color combinations and awareness campaigns are springing up every day. Red, for AIDS awareness and pink for breast cancer awareness are two of the most widely recognized.

The statistics of the prevalence of breast cancer in women are that 1 out of every 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. When detected early, The Breast Cancer Foundation states that the 5 year survival rate is 100 percent. This should be the focus of every woman and the conversation with her health care provider. What should I do to be proactive in detecting breast cancer early.

We have all heard the myths surrounding breast cancer and should help to eliminate these untruths.

* Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.

Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. But if you discover a persistent lump in your breast or notice any changes in breast tissue, it should never be ignored. It is very important that you see a physician for a clinical breast exam. He or she may possibly order breast imaging studies to determine if this lump is of concern or not.

Take charge of your health by performing routine breast self-exams, establishing ongoing communication with your doctor, getting an annual clinical breast exam and scheduling your routine screening mammograms.

* Men do not get breast cancer; it affects women only.

Quite the contrary, each year it is estimated that approximately 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 410 will die. While this percentage is still small, men should also check themselves periodically by doing a breast self-exam while in the shower and reporting any changes to their physicians.

Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola. Men carry a higher mortality than women do, primarily because awareness among men is less and they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment.

* If you have a family history of breast cancer, you are likely to develop breast cancer, too.

While women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, most women who have breast cancer have no family history. Statistically only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of this disease.

We should not take any cancer lightly, but being able to follow some simple early detection guidelines and becoming assertive with our health care professionals can allow us more control over the outcomes of a breast cancer diagnosis.

— To Your Health is written by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit bouldercityhospital.org.

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