While fall is in bloom, pink is the unofficial color of October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and there are several factors that contribute to a woman’s risk for the disease.
Dr. Allison DiPasquale is a breast surgical oncologist with Methodist Health System, and she is devoted to the detection and treatment of breast cancer. She has shared some facts that both women and men should know this month.
1. Breast cancer is becoming more widespread
It used to be that one in 12 women was diagnosed, and now it’s one in eight. This is likely because the technology for screening and knowledge about the disease is much better now, so make sure to find out if you’re at risk by seeing your doctor.
2. More young women are being diagnosed with breast cancer
Since the genetic risk factors are more widely known, women are finding out at a much younger age if they’re at risk or even if they already have the disease.
3. There are several genes associated with breast cancer
BRCA1 and BRCA2, the genes linked to breast cancer, are widely known, but what many people don’t know is that there are several other genes that might show a woman is at risk. When visiting your doctor, make sure to give a complete family medical history. If someone in your family has had cancer — not just breast or ovarian — you could still be at risk, so ask your doctor about getting tested for the gene.
4. Get screened early
If your mother or another woman in your family was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dr. DiPasquale recommends getting screened 10 years prior to when a first-degree relative was diagnosed. So if your mother was diagnosed at 45, get screened at 35.
5. Get yearly mammograms
If you’re not at high risk, start getting annual mammograms at age 40. If you are at high risk, follow the advice above.
6. The BRCA2 gene is not just for breast cancer
Men: If a woman in your family has had breast cancer and you carry the gene, you could also be at increased risk for prostate cancer.
7. If someone in your family had breast cancer, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re a genetic carrier for the disease
It is estimated that only about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary.
8. If you are diagnosed, you don’t have to get a double mastectomy
Doctors only recommend that women who carry the genetic mutation for BRCA should remove both breasts. Otherwise, high-risk monitoring is an effective way to screen women at risk. But for many women with breast cancer, there are a variety of options available and offered by Methodist.
The major goal of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in its name: awareness. Visit your doctor regularly, discuss any concerns you may have about your health or family history, and get screened if necessary. Early detection can save lives.